RIP, Ron Santo

As a kid growing up a Cubs fan in Chicago, I couldn’t help but pull for Ron Santo. Ernie Banks may have been “Mr. Cub”, but Santo was right up there with him in our hearts.

It wasn’t just about his play… although he’s arguably the most glaring omission from the Hall of Fame (this side of Pete Rose… but that’s a whole other issue). He won five Gold Gloves, made nine All-Star teams, and hit over 300 homers in an era dominated by pitchers. More modern statistical measurements place him clearly in Hall of Fame territory among third basemen.

No, it was much more. When he was 18, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. At the time, the life expectancy of a person with that condition was 25. Not 25 years from diagnosis, but 25, period. Back in the 60s and early 70s, diabetes management wasn’t as advanced as it is today; he would gauge his blood sugar on his moods, and if it felt low, he would eat a candy bar in the clubhouse. Santo didn’t reveal his condition until 1971, long after he had become an established star; early on, he was afraid he would be forced into retirement if it became known.

He eventually became a Cubs radio announcer in 1990, a job he held for the rest of his life. Diabetes took its toll—he lost his right leg below the knee in 2001, and the left, also below the knee, in 2002—but it never took his spirit. He also single-handedly raised over $60 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Santo was able to battle diabetes to a draw for decades… survived bypass surgery and one bout with cancer… but another fight with cancer was just one battle too much.

I’ll always remember you, Ron…

4 thoughts on “RIP, Ron Santo

  1. Won’t happen until the class of 2012 at the earliest. The Hall has changed procedures for that election yet again. The reworked VC, now made up of three 16-member subcommittees, will now consider all individuals eligible for induction but not for BBWAA voting on a single ballot. The candidates will be considered by the era in which they made their greatest contributions. Each individual will now be eligible for consideration once every three years.

    This year (Class of 2011), the VC is considering figures from what the Hall calls the “Expansion Era” (post-1972). Figures from the “Golden Era” (1947–1972) come up for election next December for the Class of 2012. Since Santo’s career ended in 1974, he should be on the ballot for the Golden Era. The “Pre-Integration Era” (1871–1946) takes its turn for the Class of 2013.

    FYI — the VC results will be announced Monday. Here’s the ballot, BTW…
    * Vida Blue
    * Dave Concepción
    * Steve Garvey
    * Pat Gillick (was GM of the Jays when they won their two World Series, the M’s when Ichiro came in, and the Phils for their 2008 Series win)
    * Ron Guidry
    * Tommy John
    * Billy Martin
    * Marvin Miller (longtime executive director of the MLBPA)
    * Al Oliver
    * Ted Simmons
    * Rusty Staub
    * George Steinbrenner

  2. Update, in case you haven’t heard:

    Gillick was the only person elected. Miller missed by one vote. The only other candidate to get as many as half of the votes was Concepción.

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