Fans Pay Last Respects At Santo’s Funeral
UPDATED 12/10/10 12:40 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Family, friends and fans gathered at Holy Name Cathedral Friday morning to honor the life of Cubs legend Ron Santo.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, the funeral service was held the cathedral 735 N. State St. A funeral procession followed, and a crowd of hundreds gathered at Clark and Addison streets as the hearse did a lap around Wrigley Field.
Pallbearers brought Santo’s casket into the cathedral as of just after 10 a.m. Everyone from the Cubs owner Tom Ricketts to bleacher regular Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers was present.
Monsignor Don Mayall said Santo embodied three virtues — joy, hope and courage. Mayall said he’s an unabashed Cubs fan whose last glove carried Santo’s name.
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“Joy plus hope plus courage equals Ron Santo,” Mayall said. “Joy, hope and courarge are virutes; gifts from God that make people good.”
Ricketts delivered one of the eulogies at the service. He spoke of Santo’s undying passion for the game.
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“Ron was truly the beating heart of the Chicago Cubs fans,” Ricketts said.
He called Santo the “fans’ broadcaster,” unafraid to root for his old team and express his anguish when they fell short.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig also delivered a eulogy.
“Ron Santo is as fine and as passionate as a man that you will ever know,” Selig said.
Selig said when the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta in the mid-1960s, his family filled the void with the Cubs, and found Santo particularly inspirational.
“If you loved baseball you loved Ron Santo,” Selig said. “He was a great player but he was an even better human being.”
Finally, Santo’s longtime broadcast partner, Pat Hughes, delivered the last eulogy.
Hughes recalled coming from Milwaukee to Chicago when he began broadcasting with Santo.
As they began their first spring training broadcast in Arizona, Hughes says Santo made him instantly comfortable.
“Ron called me where I was staying sand said, ‘Pat, I know you’re nervous. Relax. You do the play-by-play. I’ll do the color. We’re going to have fun, It’s going to be great.”
Hughes said he began calling Santo a “Cubs legend” right away, and that the moniker “fit more and more as time went on.”
Hughes also shared some funny stories from his many years with Santo, including one in which Santo accidentally set his hairpiece on fire.
As Hughes and Santo worked in the press box at Shea Stadium during a Cubs-Mets game in April 2003, an old-fashioned electric heater was hanging low over their heads.
“All of a sudden, I heard something sizzling like bacon on a stove. I smell something burning. I look over at Ron; Ron’s hairpiece is on fire. Smoke billowing off the top of his head; a little blue flame,” Hughes said. “I quickly grabbed a cub of water and poured it on his head, as any partner would have done. He said, ‘How does it look?’ I lied and said, ‘Ronnie, it doesn’t look that bad to me.”
“Ronnie was not about melancholy,” Hughes said outside the cathedral before the servicee. “Ronnie was about having fun; laughing and having a good time, loving people. So there’s a mixture of grief and sadness.”
Added Williams: “He was just a great guy, and I think of what he did off the field. I think of the things that he did off the field. I think (juvenile diabetes) is a little closer to the cure because of the funds that he has raised, and I think this is one thing that he would be proud of.”
Santo raised millions of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. He suffered from type 1 diabetes throughout his life, and had to have both legs amputated below the knees later in life.
Former Cubs Billy Williams, Gary “Sarge” Matthews, Ryne Sandberg and Ernie “Mr. Cub” Banks were also in attednance. So were Dutchie Caray, the widow of broadcaster Harry Caray, and many current Cubs — including most of the ballclub’s pitching staff.
Here is a map of the funeral route.
Santo died a week ago in Arizona, from complications from bladder cancer.
He 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.