CHICAGO -- It's been 50 years since Ron Santo made his Major League debut in the first game of a doubleheader against the Pirates. He notched his first big league hit in that game at Forbes Field on June 26, 1960, off Bob Friend.
"I can't believe it's gone this quick," Santo said.
On Monday night, the team feted its former third baseman, now the color commentator on WGN Radio, and presented him with a white flag with "Santo 50" on it in Cubs blue and autographed by the players. He also received a photo of the Wrigley Field marquee with the message, "Thank you Ron for 50 great years."
Santo, 70, remembers his first game. He had flown in the day before from Houston and roomed with Don Elston. He'd never been in a Major League ballpark until the day of his first game, and he sat in the stands to watch the Pirates before he got into uniform, watching Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski.
The first pitch Santo saw was a curveball that buckled his knees.
"[Catcher] Smokey [Burgess] threw the ball back and said, 'That's a big league curveball, kid,'" Santo said. "Then I hit a line drive up the middle and it was like the world came off my shoulders."
Santo was 20 years old, playing in front of 40,000 people for the first time. He was scouted by all 16 Major League teams, but had developed a love affair with Wrigley early after watching the Cubs on the game of the week television broadcasts.
"When the Cubs played, there was something about Wrigley Field and Ernie Banks," Santo said.
The Cubs didn't make him the highest offer.
"Money wasn't the criteria for me," he said. "It was to get to the big leagues."
After he was finished playing in 1974, Santo was away from the game for 16 years. He came back in 1989 to throw out the first pitch for a Cubs playoff game.
"I said, 'I'd love to be here when the Cubs win it,'" he said.
He auditioned for a radio gig and figured he didn't have a chance. But WGN Radio hired him, and this is his 21st season in the booth. He has survived despite a tough battle with Type 1 diabetes. He's lost both legs because of the disease but is actively involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
"This has been my life for 50 years," Santo said of the Cubs. "I wouldn't be around after what I went through with the diabetes and all the operations. Every time I walk into Wrigley Field and I'm up in the booth, I don't have a problem in the world, other than moaning and groaning when the Cubs aren't doing well."
Grabow headed for DL with sprained knee
CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher John Grabow will go on the disabled list Tuesday after re-injuring his left knee and he may be out for an extended period.
Grabow entered Monday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the seventh inning and retired the first batter, then gave up an infield single to Ronny Cedeno. Paul Maholm squared to bunt on a 1-1 pitch, and Grabow finished the pitch awkwardly. Athletic trainer Mark O'Neal went to the mound and Grabow immediately headed to the clubhouse.
"It's pretty bad," Grabow said. "It's something I thought I could pitch through and it got worse. I'll go get it checked out [Tuesday]."
Grabow has received a cortisone shot already this season in the knee and was on the disabled list from May 31 to June 15 because of it. In his previous outing Thursday, he gave up one hit over two innings against the Mariners.
"I tried to pitch through it and today it felt a little different, and it kept getting worse and worse to the point where I couldn't take it any more," Grabow said.
The Cubs' bullpen has been busy after Carlos Zambrano's abbreviated outing on Friday. Right-hander Jeff Stevens will be added on Tuesday as Zambrano is moved to the restrictted list. The Cubs will add another pitcher to fill Grabow's spot on the 25-man roster as well.
If the Cubs opt for a left-hander, it could be James Russell, who began the season with the big league team. Russell has given up seven runs on 11 hits and four walks over 11 innings in five games with Triple-A Iowa, striking out 10. Left-hander John Gaub has a 4.33 ERA in 27 games with the Iowa Cubs, serving up 13 earned runs on 24 hits and 16 walks over 27 innings while striking out 37.
If the Cubs opt for another right-hander, Jeff Samardzija is an option. He has a 1.88 ERA in 20 games, including three starts at Iowa. He's given up eight earned runs on 24 hits and 22 walks while striking out 33 in 38 1/3 innings. He has started in three of his past four outings but that change in assignment was because of injuries or roster moves. Right-handers were batting .173 against Samardzija while lefties were hitting .189.
Grabow was obviously upset at the injury.
"It's tough," he said. "I felt like I was starting to get better. My knee hadn't been acting up too much and started to get on a roll."
Gorzelanny to get the start Wednesday
CHICAGO -- Tom Gorzelanny will make his first start since May 26 and he can't wait.
The left-hander will take Carlos Zambrano's spot for the Cubs on Wednesday. Gorzelanny opened the season in the rotation but was bumped to the bullpen after Zambrano's brief experiment as a reliever didn't work. Zambrano now is on the restricted list to deal with anger issues and isn't expected back with the team until after the All-Star break. When he does return, Zambrano will be in the bullpen again.
"It's easier [being a starter], because I know what my day consists of and I know what I have to do that day," said Gorzelanny, who is 2-5 with a 3.41 ERA.
"Relieving, you have to be on your toes and wait to see what's going to happen," he said. "Being a starter, you do your work and get everything done before the game starts and get to enjoy the game during the game."
He will miss sitting in the bullpen with the other relievers.
"There's always something interesting going on down there, and not just with us, but in the stands," Gorzelanny said.
Newark resident Mason named Cubs' All-Star
CHICAGO -- Sharon Mason, who runs a non-profit organization that provides therapeutic horseback riding for free to children and adults with disabilities, was named the Cubs' All-Star of the Major League Baseball and People magazine "All-Stars Among Us" campaign.
The campaign debuted in 2009 and recognizes individuals who are serving their communities in extraordinary ways. Mason was chosen among the three finalists representing the Cubs. The Newark, Ill., resident was honored for her community service through Equine Dreams.
Mason, plus the other 29 "All-Stars Among Us," one representing each MLB club, will be honored during the pregame ceremony of the 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 13 on FOX beginning at 7 p.m. CT.
Fans across the nation cast 1.7 million votes -- more than double the amount of votes from the previous year -- at PeopleAllStars.com to select the 30 All-Stars out of the pool of 90 finalists.
Mason will be at Wrigley Field on Sunday to throw out the first pitch before the Cubs' game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Outfielder Marlon Byrd, pitcher Ted Lilly and the Cubs' athletic trainers will host a PLAY campaign event at Wrigley Field. PLAY stands for "Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth" and is a public awareness campaign developed by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) in 2004 to combat child obesity. Through a series of fitness programs at all 30 Major League ballparks, PLAY was designed to encourage kids throughout the country to be active, eat right and sustain a healthy lifestyle. Cubs head athletic trainer Mark O'Neal will run the event, which will feature 60-70 Chicago area youths, ages 11-15, from the neighboring Sheil and Gill Parks. ... On Monday, Cubs pitcher Sean Marshall and coach Ivan DeJesus held a clinic for 46 kids with special needs at California Park. The event was co-sponsored by the Rehab Institute of Chicago Wheelchair Cubs. The kids received jerseys and food as well as some tips about playing baseball. ... Brett Jackson was promoted from Class A Daytona to Double-A Tennessee and didn't waste any time. The Cubs' No. 1 pick in 2009, Jackson had two hits, including a home run, in his first game with the Smokies.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.