Replacing a legend is no easy task. Just ask Chris “Izzy” Cole, Mark Wahlberg’s character in Rock Star, who failed to live up to the hype Bobby Beers set forth as the front man of Steel Dragon.

If that comparison doesn’t do much for you, how about Tony Batista? Never heard of him? That’s probably because he hasn’t done a damn thing since taking over for Cal Ripken at third base in Baltimore in 2001. Quite frankly, neither have the Orioles.

It’s usually the same story: the Dolphins after Marino, the Celtics after Bird (the Dana Barros era), the Bills after…well, the ’90s, etc. Granted, all of these instances are cases of on-field heroes; people who were directly involved with the outcome of the game.

Even so, replacing a voice that transpires the game for a collection of people can be a task equally as daunting. A voice that people have familiarized a team with, a voice that has encapsulated a history of torment so deep, so ingrained in people’s cultures that it has shaped their summers for a century.

This is exactly the predicament that Keith Moreland walks into. If you’re my age, chances are the only time you’ve heard Moreland’s name mentioned, if ever, was when he was immortalized in Steve Goodman’s “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” with the inciting line, “Have Keith Moreland drop a routine fly.”

We grew up with Ron coming through the speakers of our car stereos. Even during the last years when Santo was really sick, he showed up to the ballpark most of the time. In his own right, Ron Santo was like Kurt Cobain during his final years of life in the mid 90’s—he was sick, literally killing himself by showing up to perform, but you could never question the passion involved in his final product. Deservingly enough, they both had loyal followings that were heartsick to see them go.

Enter ‘Zonk’, the 56-year-old Texan corner outfielder who helped the Cubs garner the 1984 NL East crown. The bad news, of course, is the aforementioned notion that he is replacing the irreplaceable. The good news is that he’s sharing a booth with one of the best in sports.

Honestly, Pat Hughes is as smooth as The Situation in the ‘smush room’ or the vocals on Norah Jones’ first LP, whichever you prefer. It would be hard for Rosie Perez to screw up a Pat Hughes broadcast, so Moreland just needs to sit back, do his thing and add some of the rhyme to the recipe that made Santo so beloved by generations of Cub fans—the color.

So when Pat asks Keith to “tell us about Paul Maholm, Zonk” on opening day, I wouldn’t be disappointed or shocked to hear the following:

“To tell you the truth, Pat, I haven’t seen much of Maholm during my drop-in substitutions for Bob Brenly while he was vacationing in Boca Raton last year. So, all I really know is what I have here on this sheet in front of me that was just made by a 24-year-old intern named Tony from Melrose Park less than 12 minutes ago.

“Considering he’s a Pirate and would rather be laying carpet (literally, not figuratively. Pervert), I would venture to say that Maholm throws an array of absolutely average pitches that the Cubs $100 million lineup should tee off on. Then again, it’s opening day and look where we are…Wrigley Field in April, Pat. Anything is plausible.”

Good luck to you, Keith. Godspeed. And may the summer winds of Wrigleyville be always at your back.

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