Cubs Legend Ron Santo Dies

UPDATED 12/03/10 1:01 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Legendary Cubs third baseman and broadcaster Ron Santo has died. He was 70.

A memorial was set up in front of Wrigley Field after sunrise, and his full name, Ronald Edward Santo, was emblazoned on the marquee.

Santo lapsed into a coma on Wednesday, and died around 1 a.m. Friday in Arizona. The cause was complications from bladder cancer.

Santo had also suffered from Type 1 diabetes throughout his life, and had been through a series of health setbacks, including the amputation of both legs below the knees.

“Nobody in 1959 when I was diagnosed at 18, nobody knew what diabetes was all about,” Santo once told CBS 2. “There had never been a player in the Major Leagues that played a full career with juvenile diabetes.”

But Santo had continued to broadcast the Cubs’ games on WGN-AM 720 radio alongside Pat Hughes, and had been expected to return for the 2011 season, according to the Tribune.

Santo was born Feb. 25, 1940, in Seattle, Wash., and spent 15 years in the Major Leagues. Most of his time was spent on losing Cubs teams, most famously the 1969 team that played through a stellar season before collapsing and eventually falling short of making the postseason.

When asked by former CBS 2 sports reporter Howard Sudberry what it would mean to see a World Series, Santo said: “That would be it. I would have lived a wonderful life.” That never came to be, but Santo still became, by far, one of the most beloved players in Cubs history.

Broadcast partner Hughes told CBS 2 Friday morning that Santo loved the Cubs to the end, and kept his passion for his work regardless of his medical challenges.

LISTEN: Former Cubs’ President John McDonough Talks About The Passing Of Ron Santo

“He was a tremendous guy. He had an amazing life,” Hughes said. “I feel like I’ve lost a partner and a good friend, and the Cubs have lost their No. 1 fan.”

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts also released a statement: “My siblings and I first knew Ron Santo as fans, listening to him in the broadcast booth. We knew him for his passion, his loyalty, his great personal courage and his tremendous sense of humor. It was our great honor to get to know him personally in our first year as owners.

LISTEN: Cubs’ Announcer Len Kasper Talks About The Passing Of Ron Santo

“Ronnie will forever be the heart and soul of Cubs fans,” the statement continued. “Our thoughts and prayers today are with his wife Vicky and their family and we share with fans across the globe in mourning the loss of our team’s number one fan and one of the greatest third basemen to ever play the game.”

Mayor Richard M. Daley called Santo “not just a great baseball player and Cubs player, but most of all a fighter for life; for diabetes, and he had the strength to go and really encourage people about his illness. And at the same time, he always had a friendly smile, and really loved the Cubs and loved baseball. And he’ll truly be missed.”

Gov. Pat Quinn called Santo a “great guy” and a “man for all seasons.” He also called Santo a “great baseball player.”

Mayoral candidate and Cubs fan Rahm Emanuel also issued a statement.

“I fondly remember growing up going to Cubs games when Ron was third baseman,” Emanuel said in part. “Ron will be greatly missed and I extend my condolences to his family.”

In Wrigleyville Friday morning, mourners were coming out before dawn.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya Reports

“He was the face of the Chicago Cubs in my generation; I just found out,” one man said. “We live one block from Wrigley; I’ve been to every home game for the last five years, and it’s just sad.”

Cubs and White Sox fans alike were in mourning.

“It’s a sad day for people that are Cubs fans and baseball fans,” said White Sox fan Kevin Nedved. “He was a great ballplayer; deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, I believe.”

Cubs fan Christopher Hillas said he would miss Santo most for “his energy. He was one of us. You could listen to that game; you could be in traffic, you’d feel like you were right there.”

Santo’s run with the Cubs lasted from 1960 to 1973. He played one more season in 1974 with the White Sox.

During his career, Santo played for the National League in the All-Star game nine times. He batted .277 during his career with a total of 342 home runs, and 1,331 RBI, according to the Cubs.

Santo joined the WGN-AM radio team as a Cubs color commentator in 1990.

In 1992, Santo was a member of the first Cubs Walk of Fame class, and was named to the Cubs’ all-century team in 1999.

Santo hoped for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame for many years, but fell short on all 19 occasions he was up for election, much to the frustration of his legion of fans.

In an interview with CBS 2 Friday morning, Les Grobstein of 670 The Score said Santo’s record should easily warrant election to the Hall of Fame.

“It’s a joke,” Grobstein said. “Compare (Santo’s) numbers offensively to those of Brooks Robinson (who is in the Hall of Fame) when you get a chance… There is no comparison.”

Some believe Santo’s heel-clicking celebrations, which ultimately became his signature, may have cost him a ticket to Cooperstown.

“Big deal. So he clicked his heels,” Grobstein said. “I hope those guys who kept him out sleep well tonight.”

But when his uniform number was retired on Sept. 28, 2003, the day after the Cubs clinched the National League Central Division in a season that took the team five outs away from the World Series. It was the closest they’d come since Santo was 5 years old.

Santo said it meant more to him than a Hall of Fame induction. Santo’s No. 10 now flies from the left-field flagpole at Wrigley Field.

Santo is survived by his wife, Vicki; their four children — Ron Jr., Jeff, Linda and Kelly; and their two grandchildren, Samuel and Spencer.

  • John Grabowicz, Wheeling,Il

    My thoughts and prayers to Ron’s family and friends. He will be missed when the Cubs are back in April. Now let’s see him get into the hall of Fame.

  • Gerald v

    I will iss him dearly as well the rest of cubs fans and baseball fans. Wont be the same without him next to pat always living and dieing with the cubs wins and losses. He should be in the hof the guys stats are really good played in 9 allstar games and the guy had diabetes and had to be worse in his day then it is now. Rip MR ron santo.

  • bsab

    Im crying this morning with the news of Ron Santos passing. Who will replace him. No one. He warmed myheart and will continue to do so.

  • chrisk

    Poor Ron! I’ve been out of the area for years and just started getting so I could listen to the radio broadcasts. It was good to be able to hear his voice again this year. Man, what a character, I sure am gonna miss him :(

    RIP, Ronniie

  • Marinna

    We Cardinal fans are shedding tears for #10. His passion for his beloved Cubs and Baseball transcends team lines. Always got a chuckle listening to Ronnie. Isn’t that the greatest compliment of all!

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  • AnonPls

    What a tragic surprise. I spent the 2010 Cubs season working at Wrigley in a location near where Santo came in before each game, and went through part of the concourse to his work location. So sometimes we lower-level employees might get to say a brief “hello” to him or exchange short, positive small talk. He always came with a positive attitude. My condolences to all his friends and family.

  • Sgt. York

    Santo could not shake that Don Young incident and somehow played a big part in his denial in the Hall of Fame. RIP

  • Fran /Peter

    Sincere condolence and prayers to the Santos family. He was one of the “people”. A true inspiration.

  • m ike weinstein

    not only did I live and die with every cub game as ronnie did, I had the honor of meeting him socially at a friends house….we have lost a fine young man as ronniewould say…no one can replace him…no one could possibly be more of a cub fan….hedeserves to be in the hof…..and it is a shame he did not live to see his election….our prayers to vicki and his family….you will be missed

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  • Denver Smeghead

    The Ultimate Cub Optimist, the Ultimate Cub Fan. It’s a much sadder world today. :(

  • art

    my thoughts and prayers to mr.santo and family.god bless.

  • Vickie A.

    I am devastated. Wrigley field will not be the same with out # 10 there. My prayers go out to the family. It will be hard for me to go to a game next season with out RON there.

    • Ashley DeMeritt

      it will for sure be very hard to go to the 1st opening game w out ron…..

  • Ryan from Mundelein

    Spiegs, you are a piece of garbage. How you got the chair next to Danny Mac is a mystery to everyone. No Cubs fan would ever say a White sox free agent signing is more important than Ron Santo passing. Trade your Blue in for Black and never come back.

    Santo’s numbers are every bit as good as Brooks Robinson’s and he did it in 8 fewer seasons. He beats Robinson in BA, OBP, and Slugging both for their careers and in a 162 game average. Santos 162 game average was good for more Hits, Runs, HR , and RBI. Robinson was an AllStar 65% of his seasons played, Santo 60%. How can anyone argue Santo doesn’t have the numbers for the HOF?

    Chicago lost a true gem. We’ll miss you Ronny.

  • Ray Glon

    What Happened to Matt’s illuminating comments? Was he hit on his snout and sent to his cage by someone with some common decency?

  • Jim

    You will be missed, Mr. Santo. Your enthusiasm and passion for what you believed was inspiring to many, including myself. May God bless you and your family. I say this with a heavy heart.

  • Spiegs

    That d-bag is not me. Really eveil and juvenile to pretend so. II’m on the air….stop.


  • Ric K.

    Back off of Matt, he didn’t write anything…IT WASN’T HIM!!!

  • John

    The Cubs biggest fan will be missed… the last 5 years I’ve tuned out Brenly and Kasper on the tube just to listen to Ronnie and Pat on the radio. He expressed his joy and frustration in the same way I would as a fan… he will be dearly missed.

  • S P Mack aka Matt Speigel fan

    Ronnie, you will be missed.

    Tributosaurus Rocks!

  • immessedup17

    I’m not old enough to remember Santo as a player or an announcer but he has my thoughts.

  • chaspoppcap

    RIP Ronnie. Since you are my #1 favorite player I’ve got my index finger out and ready to honor you with it.

  • Jeff Kwit

    Ron became a caricature in later life but in his prime,nothing brought more hope to Cub fans than the words: “Williams,Santo and Banks due up…”

  • Meatasaurus

    I stopped reading this article halfway through, but I’m sure it’s touching.

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