Friday, December 03, 2010

RIP Ron Santo

Ron Santo passed away last night. He had a stellar career with the Chicago Cubs. He was beloved as a Cub broadcaster. And I say this as a White Sox fan. And without snark of any kind.

Santo will always be remembered for his clicking his heels in celebration -- particularly in that ill-fated 1969 season. I found this reminiscence on line this morning about the first time Santo clicked his heels in celebration and I thought it worth sharing.

The irony, of course, is that Santo would lose both heels -- both legs -- before he died in the course of his lifelong battle against diabetes. Santo raised a lot of money in his lifetime for juvenile diabetes research. And he gave a lot of kids with diabetes hope that they, too, could succeed and excel in life and in sports. Current Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, for one.

I'd also like to share this post I did, in late 2008, on the occasion of Santo being denied entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ron Santo, requiescat in pace.

From December 11, 2008:
Believe it or not, it was only Monday that the biggest story in Chicago was that Ron Santo was once again denied entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ron Santo is a beloved figure in this town. He's the color commentator on the Cub radio broadcasts and -- from what I'm told -- his comments are often just groans or shrieks or cheers, depending on what the Cubs are doing on the field.

And he has a compelling personal story: He had a long and successful playing career even though he had juvenile diabetes. He's lost parts of both legs to the disease in recent years. He's not been in the best of health.

I never really saw Santo play much. After all, he was only with the White Sox for one year (in 1974) and his statistics that one year weren't exactly Hall of Fame caliber: In 117 games for the Sox, Santo batted only .221, with just five homers and 41 RBI. He was used more as a DH or second baseman with the Sox; we had Beltin' Bill Melton as our regular third baseman then.

I know some of you, knowing the rivalry between Cub and Sox fans in this town, may think I'm being snarky by saying that Santo should be relieved that he's not been enshrined in the Hall. But I'm being sincere.

I'm thinking of the last great Chicago ballplayer who teetered on the cusp of Cooperstown for many years.

I'm thinking of Nellie Fox.

Every year, an ardent campaign would be undertaken to get Fox in the Hall. A lot of prominent people joined the Nellie Fox Society to promote his election.

Fox died in 1975. He wasn't around to experience the annual ritual of his being snubbed by the Hall. In 1985, the last year of his eligibility on the writers' ballot, Fox got 74.49% of the votes -- just two votes short of the 75% needed for election. The Dean of Chicago sportswriters, the late Jerome Holtzman, later baseball's official historian, argued that the numbers should be rounded up so that Fox would be elected. The Hall said no.

Like Santo, Fox had the numbers on the field to merit election.

So -- every year -- there was a fresh outcry over the injustice of it all. Fox, long dead, remained very much alive in the hearts of his partisans.

And then the Veterans Committee finally relented and Fox got in. Fox has a statue now along the outfield concourse at U.S. Cellular Field. But it's just not the same.

So -- Mr. Santo -- take it from me, a lifelong Sox fan: Don't be so upset that the Hall has denied you again. A lot of people are very upset for you. On your behalf. And you should bask in the glow of their genuine affection.


Dave said...

Haven't read this yet; but, glad to know that all is well and nudging works.

Dave said...

Now having read it, I had a Nellie Fox glove purchased from the place all things back then were purchased, Sears.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Thanks for telling me all about Ron Santo