By Doug Halberstadt
One of Chicago’s most beloved sports figures finally got his day in the sun, more accurately, his place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The late Ron Santo, star third baseman for the Chicago Cubs and later a broadcaster for the team, was officially immortalized when he was recently inducted into the shrine in Cooperstown.
For years, controversy surrounded Santo’s inability to garner enough votes from the veteran’s committee to be enshrined while he was still living. Santo died of bladder cancer in December 2010.
Cubs fans and baseball scholars have repeatedly lobbied for Santo’s inclusion in the Hall. Scores of arguments have been made based on his years of play and the stats he accumulated. Most baseball purists have long believed he deserved his rightful spot in the shrine alongside the other greats who have gone before him.
At the induction ceremony, Santo’s widow, Vicki, gave a heartwarming speech and ended it with: “This is not a sad day. This is a great day. I’m certain that Ronnie is celebrating right now.”
I’ve been a long-time fan of Santo’s and have always been one of the people who thought he deserved the honor long before now. Santo not only put up the numbers on the field, what he did after his playing career also supported that opinion.
His broadcasting career was as colorful as they come. It was evident he loved his team, and each day he came to the ballpark, fans looked forward to his unique ways of calling a game. He was the voice of the fans. No one bled a deeper shade of Cubbie blue than Santo.
He also was a strong advocate for juvenile diabetes. He helped raise millions of dollars in the effort to find a cure for the disease that affects a countless number of children in this country.
I’m pretty sure somewhere in heaven Santo was wearing his No. 10 uniform and clicking his heels when his bust was placed in its proper position among the best of the best who’ve ever played the game. Better late than never!
From the July 25-31, 2012, issue