This morning, beloved Chicago Cubs third baseman and radio color analyst Ron Santo passed away at age 70 from complications from bladder cancer. Santo played 15 seasons for the Cubs and then 20 seasons in the radio booth with Harry Caray, and then with Pat Hughes since 1996.
I’m sitting here, tapping on my desk, wondering how to write something about someone who wasn’t just a part of my daily routine between April and October, but a person who made the day go by with ease, click your heels when the Cubs win, and moan in agony when the Cubs find a way to lose in spectacular fashion. Yes, Ron Santo wasn’t the best color guy in sports or the most-polished. He didn’t need anyone to tell him that.
He already knew he wasn’t perfect. His body told him that when he was 19, when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. His heart told that when he had bypass surgery, and when his legs were amputated after years of living with diabetes.
Despite all of that, and his critics, either fair or unfair, Ron Santo was perfect in the blue pinstripes on white. He was perfect inside Wrigley Field. He was perfect for the Cubs fans.
Ron was himself. The same person playing behind the bag at third base, was the same guy behind the microphone, and the same guy away from Wrigley. As a diabetic, he didn’t simply raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), he advocated the awareness of diabetes.
People loved him, for his foibles and enthusiasm. No one knew what he was going to talk about, whether it was his toupee or his teammate Randy Hundley. It always came back to the game he was calling.
Maybe it’s why I can’t come up with the perfect words to offer a perfect tribute to Ron Santo. Jack Buck was the Cardinals, Phil Rizzuto was the Yankees, and Dave Niehaus was the Mariners, until his recent passing.
Today, on the northside of Chicago, Ron Santo was and will be the ultimate Chicago Cub.
If I had the opportunity to ask Ron, like so many others, what would be the most important thing for him, the answer is easy.
Holding a World Series trophy.