This Old Cub

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This Old Cub. DVD. Jeff Santo, dir. 2004. DVD. TRAILER FILM RESERVATION

DVD Cover

Review: This film is more homage to a father than a documentary. (And it's something of a calling card to baseball's Hall of Fame.) The film is not just for Chicago Cubs devotees or fans of old-school baseball, of which former third baseman Ron Santo is in a class by himself. Anyone facing adversity or hardship will be inspired by this moving story of Santo, part of the pantheon of great Cubs players: hard-nosed and blue collar. In his 14-year career, he suffered heartbreaking setbacks, including the Cubs' ignominious 1969 collapse, and not yet making it into the Hall of Fame. But his unyielding courage, perseverance, and determination not to let diabetes strike him out far outshine his on-the-field heroics. Santo was diagnosed with diabetes at age 18, and for most of his playing career, he kept it a secret (At one point, Santo recalls a remarkable at-bat when he, seeing triple, somehow managed to hit a grand slam). As Johnny Bench observes, "No disease could ever defeat him." One stirring scene is quintessential Santo. Now a double amputee, he is seen trying to acclimate himself to his walker. Unsteady on his prosthetic limbs, he stumbles. Jeff, who is working the camera, instinctively reaches out to help him, but Ron waves him off. "I'm supposed to be doing this myself," he says. This Old Cub is affectionate, but unflinching. What it lacks in slick production values, it more than makes up in heart. Chicagoans and die-hard Cub fans Bill Murray, Gary Sinise, William Petersen, and Dennis Franz add some star power as they reminisce about the dreaded 1969 season, when it actually seemed like the Cubs would make it to the World Series before being overtaken by the "miracle" New York Mets. While This Old Cub efficiently covers all the bases of Santo's storied career as a player and broadcaster, it is more an uplifting story of a man facing the severest tests of his optimistic attitude. —Donald Liebenson

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