Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Cubs’

Carmen Fanzone: Renaissance Man

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm

In the early 1970s the Cubs had a utility infielder by the name of Carmen Fanzone. Fanzone bounced around the Red Sox farm system for several years before making the big league club in 1970 but he was traded to the Cubs prior to the 1971 season. Plagued by injuries Fanzone never realized the potential he showed as a young player coming out of Detroit in the early 1960s and he was out of baseball by 1974.

The interesting thing about Fanzone was his off-season avocation: professional trumpet player. Fanzone played in Jazz clubs in Chicago, gave lessons and at one point was even a member of the Tonight Show orchestra. On road trips with the Cubs, while most of the other players were out on the town, Fanzone would be holed up in his room playing scales on his trumpet.

When I think about Carmen Fanzone I think about some of the other uniquely well-rounded and talented ballplayers of his era including Curt Flood, an accomplished painter or Denny McClain, an organist who was good enough to record two albums with Capitol Records. Reggie Smith, an all-star outfielder with a host of teams, was proficient on several instruments including, the cello, violin, clarinet and saxophone. On the road with the Red Sox or Cardinals, Smith would often forgo the bars for the art galleries. Steve Stone was a state–wide championship bowler and ping-pong player. And the list goes on and on….

Well-rounded ballplayers like Fanzone just don’t exist anymore for the simple reason that society nowadays attaches value to and amply rewards rigid specialization. Athletes are not immune and it is rare now to hear of a professional baseball player who can do anything well but play baseball. We seldom learn interesting details about a player – simply because there are none to tell. We have only statistics.

It was a better game when Carmen Fanzone played.

Happy 4th of July


Ron Santo 1940-2010

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2010 at 4:13 am

I saw in the headlines yesterday that Ron Santo has passed away. The cause was complications from diabetes. In fact, Santo had battled diabetes for much of his life and several years ago both of his legs had to be amputated. Still, this did not stop Santo from pursuing a career in broadcasting and he endeared himself to Cubs fans as much in the broadcasting booth as he had on the field.

When I was a kid, I always looked forward to the Cubs visit to San Francisco because I would have the opportunity to see the powerful Cubs lineup including perennial all-stars Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo ( why the Cubs never won with this lineup, which included Don Kessigner, Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundly, Jim Hickman et al. is anyone’s guess). Santo was the power hitting National League third baseman, par excellence and always batted third in my wiffle ball lineup ( fortunately there was no fantasy baseball in those days, just wiffle ball). He played his entire career in Chicago, albeit his last year was with the White Sox and not the Cubs. Baseball fans of my vintage will always associate number 10 with Ron Santo.

Although putting up solid career numbers including 342 home runs and a lifetime .277 average ( much better numbers than Hall of Famer Joe Morgan can boast), Santo has always been passed over for induction into the Hall. Given the courage which he displayed, playing his entire career with diabetes and involving himself in numerous diabetes-related charities both during and after his playing days, Santo really deserves a place in Cooperstown. To think that one day the Hall will include players who disgraced the game with steroid use ( I am thinking here about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens) , while truly noble individuals like Ron Santo are excluded seems unfair. But then again, election to the Hall of Fame does not carry the same cachet as it used to so maybe we just shouldn’t care.

Anyway, Ron, thanks for the wonderful memories. You will be missed.