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Emerging Pictures presents
This Old Cub (2004)

"A lot of guys will say 'How can you enjoy 14 years with the Cubs—they haven't won a World Series since 1908?' But I would not give up those 14 years that I had with the Cubs to be in the World Series with somebody else. If I couldn't be in a World Series with the Cubs, I wouldn't want to be in the World Series."
- Ron Santo

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: August 02, 2005

Stars: Ron Santo
Other Stars: Joe Mantegna, Bill Murray, Gary Sinise, William Petersen, Brian Doyle-Murray, Dennis Farina, Willie McCovey, Joel Murray, Dennis Franz, Tom Dreesen, Johnny Bench, Ferguson Jenkins, Glenn Beckert, Gene Oliver, Don Kessinger, Randy Hundley, Bob Uecker, Marty Brennamen, Chris Berman, Peter Gammons, Joe Morgan, Chip Caray, Barry Rosner, Tom Lasorda, Brooks Robinson, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Pat Hughes, John McDonough, Steve Stone, Jim Bank, Andy Masur
Director: Jeff Santo

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:31m:27s
Release Date: August 02, 2005
UPC: 037429212226
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A+BB+ A-

DVD Review

I am a Cub fan.

Have been since my earliest memories, despite being raised on the South Side of Chicago, with a White Sox fan father who to do this day can't figure out what went wrong. I'm not so enamored of the "lovable losers" moniker the Cubs have been tagged with (there's nothing lovable about losing), but I'm well aware the team hasn't won a World Series since 1908, and there's still a dull ache from the horrendous 1969 collapse—the year of the "Miracle Mets"—or the whole "Bartman Ball" incident a couple of years ago when they were five outs from going to the World Series. It's like it all happened yesterday.

Year of the moon landing or not, when something like what happened to the '69 Cubs transpires before the eyes of a baseball-loving 9-year-old, it is a tough thing to get over.

Ron Santo—All-Star third baseman for the Cubs for 14 seasons starting in 1960—was truly one of my baseball heroes in those formative years. I even insisted that my mom buy the tastes-like-cardboard frozen pizzas with Ronnie's picture on the back. His ballplaying career ended in 1974, oddly enough spending his final season across town in a White Sox uniform, but I listen to him today doing his very special everyman-brand color commentary on the Cubs radio broadcasts, suffering along with him during the losses and feeling sucker-punched with sadness as he lost both of his legs to diabetes between 2001 and 2002.

That's history in a nutshell for those of you with either no clue who Santo is or no connection to Chicago baseball. Maybe it doesn't mean much to you, but that history is just a part of why This Old Cub, a documentary directed by Jeff Santo about his famous third-baseman father, is so special to an old Cub fan like me.

And This Old Cub isn't just a baseball documentary, even though there are some great baseball stories to be found here. There is an emotional balance between baseball nostalgia and Ron Santo's lifelong battle with diabetes. He was the first regular position player in the majors to play with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes, something he was diagnosed with when he was 18 years old but kept a secret for fear of not being able to play big league ball. We hear from Santo, gently regaling us with great stories such as a clutch bases loaded at-bat during an unexpected diabetic spell where he was seeing three of everything, but we also see him in the hospital, in rehab working to learn to walk again with prosthetic legs, and even the arduous ritual of getting up in the morning.

Narrated by Joe Mantegna and featuring interviews with celebrity Cub fans such as Bill Murray, William Petersen, and Gary Sinise as well as a host of Santo's contemporaries (including Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, Johnny Bench, Randy Hundley), This Old Cub marries a career retrospective with the personal battles of diabetes into a narrative that is neither dry nor sappy, with Santo's naturally effusive personality ringing through at all times. His radio broadcast partner Pat Hughes says "Ron Santo is not about sadness" and it's true that this film is far from a pity party for the former Cub, though I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't moved to tears more than a couple of times.

Santo, ever the defining image of "Diehard Cub", has remained positive and inspiring, even as entry into Hall of Fame somehow inexplicably slid past him, captured here in all of its heartbreaking awkwardness. He is, and always will be, an integral part of Chicago Cubs baseball lore and history, as much as Gabby Hartnett, Hack Wilson, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams or Ryne Sandberg, with a personal story that is exciting and tragic. If there is one thing to learn from This Old Cub, it's that the loss of both his legs has not seemed to dampen his identifiable workingman spirit in any way.

Maybe that's what happens when you have Cubbie blue running through your veins. You don't give up. Just ask good ol' Number 10.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is nonanamorphic, a curiosity in this day and age, but that's the only major beef I can come up with. The mix of archival footage varies in quality (some of it looks like it was from 1860), but the "new" interview segments have even, well rendered colors and fairly strong detail. Not a reference disc, but good-looking for a modestly budgeted documentary.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio choices include options in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and 2.0 stereo. Unusual for a documentary, but nice use of the rear channels on the 5.1 mix—kind of surprising actually—with crowd noise and music beds significantly expanding the audio strike zone on this one. The stereo track is tolerable, but the larger sound found on the 5.1 track is enough to make it seem timid in comparison, though interview segments are clear and discernible on both.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
15 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Like a ball team with a solid, hard-hitting bench, the extras found on This Old Cub are all high caliber stuff. Even the menu will put a lump in your throat. The only downside is that the backcover touts a filmmaker commentary, which is nowhere to be found.

Regardless of that infield error, Behind the Scenes with the Filmmakers (15m:01s) has the producers talking about the project origins, including Joe Mantegna discussing his involvement in the project. There are some interesting revelations about how the original concept was intended to play out, and like most indie docs, there were money problems until some key funding came through.

There are nine additional interview segments from Bill Murray (04m:15s), Gary Sinise (02m:48s), William Petersen (07m:42s), Brooks Robinson (02m:30s), Billy Williams (01m:32s), John McDonough (04m:02s), Pat Hughes (05m:23s), and Ernie Banks (02m:10s), plus one called Jeff Sets Up Ernie Banks Interview (03m:31s), all talking glowingly about Santo. The most personal and relatable moments come from Murray, Sinise, and Petersen fondly recalling their childhood Chicago days as Cub fans. Bonus footage is essentially a set of eight deleted scenes, including an always entertaining Attendance Game exchange between Santo and Pat Hughes, in which the pair regularly try to guess the size of that day's crowd. Another great bit of vintage footage features Joe Pepitone and Ron Santo crooning Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

Ron on Diabetes is divided into two segments, First Diagnosed (07m:08s) and JDRF (04m:28s), both of which feature Santo discussing how diabetes impacted his playing days, and then his fundraising work with JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), an organization for which he has helped raise millions.

Son Then Father: Beginning and End is another two segment piece, with Jeff on the Origins of the Film (07m:03s) and Ron Looks Back on the Film (07m:03s) representing the two sides of the Santos involved in This Old Cub.

A link for JDRF Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation donations and a theatrical trailer are also included. The disc is cut into 16 chapters.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Ron Santo's illustrious Cub career and his battles with diabetes are the cornerstones of this remarkably moving documentary directed by his son, Jeff Santo. I grew up in Chicago in the 1960s idolizing Ron Santo so maybe my view is a bit skewed, but This Old Cub is an emotionally charged film, filled with great baseball nostalgia and memories, but more importantly an inspiring never-give-up attitude in the face of adversity.

Ernie Banks may indeed be Mr. Cub, but don't try to tell me Ron Santo doesn't come in a close second on any given day. This is a must for any Cub fan.

Highly recommended.

 


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