MILWAUKEE -- Cory Provus only spent two seasons on the Chicago Cubs' broadcast team, but he'll never forget his time with Ron Santo.Santo, who put the "color" in color analyst during Cubs radio broadcasts on WGN for the past 21 seasons, died Thursday from complications of bladder cancer. Provus, who did both pregame and postgame work with Santo in 2007 and '08, learned of the sad news on Thursday night. "I loved the guy," Provus said. Provus felt instantly embraced by the veteran color man. His first on-air work for the Cubs came in March 2007 in Las Vegas, where the team played one of its annual Spring Training exhibitions. Provus was nervous and feeling a bit down after boarding the charter flight to Cincinnati for Opening Day.
"Halfway through the flight, Ron came back and sat with me for an hour," Provus said. "He told me to relax, be myself, have fun and that we were going to laugh all the time. That meant the world to me. That started our friendship."Provus worked particularly closely with Santo because part of the daily duties of the pregame host included recording Santo's daily chat with manager Lou Piniella. The on-the-record portion lasted just five minutes, but the off-the-record portion was the good stuff. Provus sat in every day while two baseball veterans bantered. According to Provus, it was the best part of the job. "I didn't say much unless they wanted me to," Provus said. "I just soaked it up." Santo played 14 of his 15 seasons with the Cubs and remained a fan even after joining the broadcast team in 1990. He cheered the Cubs when they scored a big run and groaned when they committed a costly error -- and he never apologized for either. "And he never should apologize," Provus said. "That's what Cubs fans want. Pat Hughes and Ron Santo made such a great team, because if you missed any analysis, Pat was there to pick it up. "Ron was vital. Cubs fans wanted to hear Ron Santo be Ron Santo. They didn't want to hear somebody say, 'Oh, he hung a breaking ball.' That's what a lot of guys say. Ron was different. He was genuine, he was pure." Santo had both legs amputated below the knees, the result of complications from diabetes, so Provus and engineer Matt Boltz would help Santo get around the ballpark. Santo took a keen interest in Provus' marital prospects, and gave a hearty endorsement after meeting a then-girlfriend named Dana. Cory hasn't dated anyone since, and in two weeks, he and Dana will be married. Provus moved on to Milwaukee at the start of last season and recently signed a two-year contract extension through 2012. He'll continue calling Brewers games alongside Bob Uecker, who has battled his own health issues this year. "I've been lucky enough to work daily with the voices and faces of their franchise," Provus said. "It's an experience I'll never forget."