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Santo Visitation Draws Scores Of Admirers

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The coffin of Cubs great Ron Santo is adorned with his retired jersey number. (CBS)

The coffin of Cubs great Ron Santo is adorned with his retired jersey number. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The cold and threat of snow didn’t keep people from Holy Name Cathedral Thursday to pay their respects to Cubs great Ron Santo, who passed away last week at age 70.

The hearse arrived early in the afternoon. It flew two No. 10 flags. The casket inside was draped with Santo’s now-retired Cubs jersey number, as well.

“It’s been overwhelming for the family — all the love and respect,” Santo’s son, Jeff, told reporters. “My dad, he’s smiling down on us because he’d never expect that. It’s been a blessing for us.”

SLIDESHOW: Remembering Cubs great Ron Santo

Inside Holy Family for the first few hours there was private visitation for Cubs family and close friends. Santo’s widow, Vicki, was comforted by scores of people, including “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks. Also paying respects was Francis Cardinal George, former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and current Cubs hurler Sean Marshall.

“He always had a smile on his face,” Santo friend and former Cubs pitcher Milt Pappas recalled. “He always signed autographs and talked to people. It’s a shame that we got to lose a guy like that.”

“It’s upsetting that we have to deal with this,” former Cubs catcher Randy Hundley said. “However, he’s at peace now.”

Waiting their turn in the cold were scores of fans. One of them, first in line, had been waiting since 6 a.m.

“Ron’s a big part of a lot of lives, actually, not just mine. I just like to come out and represent the blue-collar folks that can’t make it here today,” John Anast said.

“No matter what they say out there, he’s a Hall-of-Famer,” Javier Beccarra said, referring to how Santo was snubbed for the honor during his lifetime. “And that’s in broadcasting, too.”

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts was not surprised by the turnout.

“There were thousands of people to have come through, and a lot of tears,” he said.

Santo spent 15 years in Major League Baseball – playing third base for the Cubs from 1960 to 1973, and one more season with the White Sox in 1974. He joined WGN-AM 720 radio as a Cubs color commentator in 1990, and had planned to return to his post there next season.

Santo was a longtime diabetes patient and lost two legs to amputation, but he helped raise millions of dollars to support Juvenile Diabetes research. He died of complications from bladder cancer in Arizona last Friday.

His funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Holy Name. Only limited public seating will be available.

Afterward, a procession will leave the cathedral and head north on State Street, east on Chicago Avenue, south on Michigan Avenue to the Wrigley Building at the Chicago River where it will turn around, pause in front of the Tribune Tower where WGN radio is located.

The procession will then head north on Michigan Avenue to inner Lake Shore Drive, then west on Division Street, north on LaSalle Boulevard, north on Clark Street, north on Sheffield Avenue, west on Addison Street followed by a lap around Wrigley Field.

Here is a map of the funeral route.

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