Legendary third baseman Ron Santa dies in Arizona at 70
Chicago, Illinois (Chicago Tribune)– Legendary Chicago Cubs player and broadcaster Ron Santo died Thursday night in Arizona, WGN-AM 720 reported this morning. he was 70.
Friends of Santo’s family said the North side icon lapsed into a coma on Wednesday before dying Thursday.
The former Cubs third baseman had overcome several debilitating injuries, including the amputation of both legs, to continue to work as a Cubs analyst on WGN, the team’s flagship radio broadcast. he was expected to return for the 2011 season.
Despite ongoing health problems, including a lifelong battle with diabetes, Santo never considered giving up his work alongside play-by-play man Pat Hughes. he missed several road trips in 2010 but insisted he would return.
“What else am I going to do?” Santo said during this past season. “Doing the Cubs games is like therapy for me.”
Santo was the quintessential Cubs fan and made no apologies for his on-air cheerleading or his utter frustration over a Cub’s misplay.
On many occasions, when Santo was upset with the way things were going for the team, a simple grunt sufficed.
“I’m a fan,” he explained last summer. “I can’t plan what I do. I get embarrassed sometimes when I hear what I said, like, ‘Oh, no, what’s going on?’ but it’s an emotion.
“This is being a Cub fan.”
Santo never witnessed his longtime goal of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite career numbers that mark him as one of baseball’s all-time great third basemen. he finished with a .277 average over 15 major league seasons, with 342 home runs and 1,331 runs batted in.
Though Santo came close to Cooperstown enshrinement in the last decade in voting by the Veterans Committee, he always fell short. In 2007, Santo received 39 of the 48 votes necessary to reach the 75 percent threshold of the living 64 Hall of Famers to cast a ballot. his 61 percent lead all candidates and no one was elected to the Hall.
It was the fourth straight time the Veterans Committee had failed to elect a member, leaving Santo frustrated.
“I thought it was going to be harder to deal with, but it wasn’t,” he said that day. “I’m just kind of fed up with it. I figure, ‘Hey, it’s not in the cards.’ but I don’t want to go through this every two years. It’s ridiculous.”
Santo was up for the Hall of Fame on 19 occasions, and first appeared on the Veterans Committee ballot in 2003. he got his hopes up on every occasion.
“Everybody felt this was my year,” he said after the last vote in December 2008. “I felt it. I thought it was gonna happen, and when it didn’t. … What really upset me was nobody got in again.
“It just doesn’t make sense.”
Santo was consistent that he did not want to make a posthumous entrance into the Hall of Fame. After being denied so many times, he was resigned to what is now the only possibility.
“(Induction) wasn’t going to change my life,” he said. “I’m OK. but I know I’ve earned it.”
Santo was beloved by many Cubs fans and players alike. When he was ill during the 2003 playoffs and couldn’t travel with the team, pitcher Kerry Wood hung a No. 10 Santo jersey in the Cubs dugout in Atlanta. the Cubs won Game 5 of the division series to capture their first postseason series since 1945. Wood made an emotional call to Santo afterward, dedicating the game to him.
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