Legendary

Baseball likes to use the term “legend” quite a bit. Any player in the Hall of Fame has probably had “legendary” attached to his name at one time or another. The late Ron Santo was routinely introduced as such when he was doing Cubs games on the radio: “Welcome to baseball, everyone! Along with Cubs legend Ron Santo, I’m Pat Hughes coming to you from beautiful (insert stadium name here) and tonight’s game….”

And now, since Ron Santo is no longer with us, Keith Moreland has taken over in his spot on the airwaves. He’s not called a “legend” in his introduction, but a “former Cubs star”  instead. That certainly was true for a couple of years in the 1980s. And he played in the majors for many seasons, while I can only get into a ballpark if I buy a ticket. I understand how that is, believe me.

I wonder if Ron Santo was referred to as a “legend” when he began working Cubs games on the radio. I’d be lying if I said I knew for sure, but I doubt that his playing career by itself qualified as “legendary.” He accomplished a lot, and eventually made it into the Hall of Fame, but he never hit 60 home runs or won the Triple Crown or anything like that. And again, this is not meant to knock him in any way. But there evidently were enough who did not consider his stats to be Hall of Fame worthy during his lifetime.

The Type 1 diabetes issue, that he not only played with but also kept hidden for most of his career, pushes him closer to the “legend” column. It’s a horrible, debilitating disease, Type 1 Diabetes is, and performing at the level he did with that condition is remarkable. But they won’t, or at least they shouldn’t, include that on his plaque at Cooperstown. I can’t think of any other Type 1 Diabetics in the game, past or present, but I’m sure there must have been some. Please let me know who they might be.

So a long and accomplished career played with a diabetic secret hidden away. Now add a much-publicized struggle with gaining the needed 75% vote of the Baseball writers to get into the Hall. He topped out at 43% of the vote in his 15th and final year on the ballot in 1998. But by then his announcing–including that “Oh No!” call during the 1998 playoff race–had pushed him into the “legend” category. His passion for the game, and the Cubs, shone through every game. He didn’t retire to the golf course, but he traveled with the team, sharing his insights and stories with people all season long. That’s the sort of rare and special quality that made him into a legend.

Keith Moreland won’t ever reach the point of being introduced as “legendary,” and my guess is that he doesn’t want to. Calling Cubs games is probably about the sweetest gig imaginable, and the job will probably be his for as long as he wants to do it. And “former Cubs star” does have a nice ring to it, too. But there won’t be any “legends” in the radio booth with Pat Hughes anymore. And that’s just fine with me.

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