In the ongoing battle over the future of Wrigley Field and the Cubs franchise in general, perceptions matter. Quite a bit. And the Chicago Cubs recently took a beating that was probably worse than anything they’ve suffered on the field in a very long time.
On September 30, the day that the Cubs lowered the boom on manager Dale Sveum, there were a number of items thrown into a dumpster outside of Wrigley Field by Cubs personnel. Who made the decision will probably never be known for certain, but they committed a gaffe that has rankled Cubs fans, particularly since it involved the late Ron Santo.
Ron Santo as a player, and then Ron Santo as a broadcaster and a fundraising and awareness champion for the cause of Juvenile Diabetes research, would be canonized as a saint if Cubdom were a religion.
The fact that he went to his grave without first getting the call from Cooperstown cemented his standing in the eyes of practically every Cubs fan alive. You can’t really call yourself a Cubs fan if you don’t revere Ron Santo to some degree.
When Ron Santo passed away late in 2010, there were many tributes, including many oversized condolence cards set up for fans to sign at the annual Cubs convention. Fans signed these cards en masse, hoping to send a good word on to the Santo family.
That was the plan, anyway.
One of these cards was, for some inexplicable reason, was kept by the team. That is, until it was put into the dumpster outside of Wrigley Field on September 30. Among those were a sign that read “We’ll miss you Ron” on full display inside the dumpster, for all of the assembled reporters at Wrigley Field to notice. And notice they did, which included taking and tweeting out pictures of the discarded items.
The story was shocking enough to begin with, but when the pictures were made public, a full-blown crisis had emerged. Nobody really cared about Dale Sveum very much, but Ron Santo was an entirely different story. To paraphrase Patrick Swayze, “Nobody puts Ronny in the dumpster, least of all a franchise that has developed some significant attendance issues over the past few years.”
What’s done is done, and the Cubs have already issued an apology. But for those who signed the discarded sympathy card–as well as those who think the new Cubs Way isn’t worth getting excited about just yet–this one is similar to a beanball, in that both are painful and likely to result in a lingering bruise.