Updated: Jan 31, 2021
This Old Cub is a biographical movie about Ron Santo, the late, great third baseman of the Chicago Cubs. Released in 2004, I finally sat down to watch it, as a part of me trying to get some kind of baseball intake during this Corona virus delay.
This Old Cubs was produced in 2004 by Ron's son, Jeff, an independent filmmaker. Ron's passing in 2010 and the Cubs championship in 2016 sheds a different light onto his story. A lot of it I knew already, as I've been a die hard Ron Santo fan from his time in the radio booth. There were a few tidbits and stories I didn't know. If you are a Ron Santo fan, it's a must watch. If you became a fan of the Cubs after he passed, it's still very worth a watch, as it helps generate a lot of context as to how Ron became a fan favorite.
This Old Cub feels like a bit of a time capsule in this present day. There are a lot of historical footage and photos from his playing days as well as content of Ron from around 2003, when he was having his second leg amputated and then having his number retired. In 2003, I was in high school, as the Cubs enjoyed their best season of my childhood. There are a lot of little bits of the movie which lead to the "Oh yeah, I remember that!" moments.
It helps contextualize a whole era of baseball, and brings you back to a simpler time of Cubs baseball, when they were the lovable losers. The ballpark, team, the fandom all used to be so different. In so many ways, Ron Santo encapsulates that old mindset.
There are a lot of famous people sharing a lot of great things about Ron. If you listened to him on the radio, he always seemed like a super friendly guy. If you were lucky enough to meet him (as I was), you kind of knew he was a nice guy as well. But hearing people gush about him for an hour and a half, and you really learn what a nice upbeat guy he was, and the power of a positive attitude. He was the real deal. Critics of This Old Cub often point to how the movie doesn't take a strong perspective on Ron's life. They are mistaken. Ron's mantra was a simple one, be nice to others and be positive. It's not a very flashy or strong mantra, but Ron was kind of like a baseball themed Mr. Rogers; he was a consistent performer and personality. It's a mantra that's easy to overlook, but is far more valuable when you realize it's missing.
I really enjoyed the documentary. It brought back a lot of fond memories. There were plenty of laughs, and plenty of "oh yeah" moments. It also made me a bit sad, because I do miss Ron. I so wish he could have been around for 2016, and as well as for his Hall of Fame induction. At the same time, his upbeat optimism takes on more power since he didn't quite get to the promised land of those two events.
This Old Cub is available on amazon.
This Old Cub: 8/10. A must watch for Cubs fans and Chicagoans, but also a great movie for others as well.