This past week saw the passing of Ron Santo, the radio color man for the Chicago Cubs. He was a third baseman for the club from the 1969 club that did a spectacular downward spiral at then end of that season.
We could argue if he belongs in the Hall of Fame but let’s not. He was seemingly good guy, one of the better players and full of passion for the game. Cub fans love him but his was some of the worst anouncing I ever heard. That is my opinion and I do not wish to be beaten up for it.
However, I am not sure how many non-Chicagoans noticed that the funeral procession went past the Chicago Tribune building and Wrigley Field before going on to the cemetary.
I know some of you might be thinking that is weird or maybe you are thinking that was a nice gesture to drive by the ball park where Ronny lived and breathed and dived into the dirt.
However, it was none of those. It is a Chicago tradition.
Perhaps they do not do it in your state or city but in Chicago the funeral procession with the hearse goes past the decease’s home before heading to the cemetary. It might make the drive longer and more difficult. But it is what we do.
A few years ago when my Auntie Mary died, we drove past her neat bungalow on the southwest side. We did it for my grandmother and grandfather who lived in Pilsen.
The funniest procession story may be my grandfather’s. It was a cold and wet day, just before Christmas. You have to understand the neighborhood used to be Slovak and eastern European. During the white flight years, many of these people moved out and Hispanic people moved in. My grandmother refused to move.
I forget the name of the funeral director but it was Valasquez or Valdez or V-something. The procession had driven past the house and turned onto the main drag. That is when the funeral director, Ray, stopped everything so that he could get the interlopers in the line out. People either did not see the honken big hearse or did not want to be bothered with the niceties of waiting for the procession.
That is when I notice that my mother is laughing to herself. She points to her younger sister and they share a knowing look. I ask what is going on. My mother explains that the hearse is parked right outside of Grandpa’s favorite bar.
We are in the middle of Pilsen, on the way to the cemetary and, apparently, Grandpa needs to say goodbye to one more place. So he does and we drive past.
A year ago we buried my Aunt Barbara next to her husband, Pedro. Because her casket was coming from Indiana, many of us did not drive past her former home in Little Village or the family home in Pilsen. I missed that tradition although I did enjoy getting to talk to cousins I have not seen in a long time.
I am sure Cub fans feel the same way. It was fitting and right that Santo’s hearse went by the ball field. After all, it has been a home for him for most of the last forty years in one way or another. He was able to say goodbye to the most historic field in the country that is still standing.
That alone is worth every mile out of the way from the cemetary.
Goodbye, Ronny. Maybe, this is finally the year.