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Ron Santo 1940-2010

Dec 3, 2010, 8:01 AM EDT

Ron Santo

Awful news: Chicago Cubs great Ron Santo has died at age 70. Santo had been battling bladder cancer, lapsed into a coma on Wednesday and died yesterday.

Ron Santo was one of the most productive and consistent players of the 1960s and early 70s.  Because of the low overall offensive profile of the era, however, it might be easy to overlook just how great he really was.  His career line was .277/.362/.424.  His adjusted OPS, however — which takes era into account — was 125, which places him in similar territory to Yogi Berra, Charlie Gehringer, Kirby Puckett and many other Hall of Fame talents.  As is often the case for third basemen, however, Santo’s contributions have been under appreciated.  But he was under appreciated even among third basemen. Indeed, in 1964 two third basemen won MVP awards: Brooks Robinson and Ken Boyer.  Santo had better seasons than either of them. His value is illustrated by the fact that, for thirty years, the Cubs third base position was defined largely by the fact that they could never get anyone there who could hold a candle him.

Santo was a nine-time All-Star. He hit for power, ranking near the top in home runs all-time among third basemen. He hit for average. He took a ton of walks. He had a nice glove too, winning five Gold Gloves. He was never honored with election to the Hall of Fame, but that’s the Hall of Fame’s fault, not Santo’s.  For what it’s worth he has been considered either the best or among the best players not to be elected to the Hall of Fame for many years. For Santo’s part, he said that the Cubs retiring his number 10 was a greater honor. And given his place in Cubs’ history, I agree with that.

Santo suffered from diabetes during his playing career and for the remainder of his life. He had both legs amputated below the knee as a result, yet remained active working for the Cubs as a broadcaster, booster and ambassador.  He was always upbeat and positive. The Cubs and baseball as a whole were lucky to have his like as a player and as a friend.

Rest in Peace, Ron.

  1. sknut - Dec 3, 2010 at 8:08 AM

    I am too young to have watched Santo play, but I did hear him on the radio and he had such passion for the Cubs it was fun to listen to. He also was a tireless worker for diabetes causes and meant so much to the community. He may not go in the baseball hall of fame, but he was a true Hall of Famer.

    RIP-Ron Santo

  2. kmgannon - Dec 3, 2010 at 8:15 AM

    This is sad news. I’m not a Cubs fan, but I live in Iowa, so Cubs games are on the radio all season–and I actively sought them out to listen to Pat Hughes and Ron Santo. He will be missed.

    And it’s a travesty that he’s not in the HOF.

  3. heiniemanush - Dec 3, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    The ’60s-’70s Cubs were one of the best teams that never won a pennant. Banks, Billy Williams, Jenkins, Durocher, Santo—all Hall of Famers—on merit, anyway. I got Santo’s autograph before a game at Wrigley and at Tiger Stadium when he was finishing his career as a White Sox. I’ll always remember him as an under appreciated ballplayer and a great guy who went out of his way to accommodate a kid, twice.

  4. Old Gator - Dec 3, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    I saw Santo play many times at Shea Stadium against the Mutts, and when I attended the University of Chicago years later he was already broadcasting for the Cubs so I never got to see him play at Wrigley and settled for Dave Kingman, who seemed to follow me over from New York. I recall Santo as one of those third basemen who, though he wasn’t an acrobat like Graig Nettles or Mike Schmidt, was kind of a Manuel Orantes at the corner – he just always seemed to be where the ball was before it got there. Chalk that up to terrific instincts and a studied knowledge about how his pitchers handled the opposing batters. And if I recall aright, he threw across the diamond like a cannon. He was one of the great presences of my youth. RIP Ron.

  5. BC - Dec 3, 2010 at 9:06 AM

    I barely remember him as a player, but certainly heard many of his calls as a broadcaster. Biggest “hometown” broadcaster I ever heard, but he made it a lot of fun. I didn’t realize he was in such awful health for so long. RIP.

  6. wonkypenguin - Dec 3, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    Sometimes, it’s fun to have a complete 100% fan be a color man for a radio broadcast. His excitement and his agony were always authentic and authenticity should always be rewarded and appreciated. He and Pat were always my favorite.

    I wish he’d have gotten into the Hall of Fame for two reasons: 1. It meant so much to him. and 2. It doesn’t mean THAT much in the grand scheme of life as to have prevented his induction as a player and baseball ambassador.

    RIP Ron.

  7. yankees1996 - Dec 3, 2010 at 10:07 AM

    I remember Santo from when I was a kid, seeing him play and hearing my dad and grandfather talk about the Cubs back in the day. Sorry to hear about your loss Cub fans, man it has been a hard year on baseball fans everywhere. God bless the family of Mr. Santo in this difficult time, Rest in Peace.

  8. chrisp5658 - Dec 3, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    Ron Santo defines the real Cub Fan. I acn remember watchinghim play as a kid, and truly enjoyed listening to his broadcast of Cubs games, wherever I have lived across the country. Cub games come alive with Ron on the radio. He always portrayed the emotions of the fan. What a guy! We will all mess him, a lot!

  9. Tim's Neighbor - Dec 3, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    I had the fortune of running into him this past April. He was so completely unassuming and kind. I was awestruck when I met him and that’s the only time that happened to me. I’ve met quite a few HOFers in my job, but I’m happier that I met him than any of those guys no matter how brief it was. He was my favorite announcer by far and I loved listening to him (too young to have watched). It was like being back in my uncle’s house when I was a kid and listening with him. Man. Now I’m rambling.

    You’ll be missed, Mr. Santo.

  10. kjdavis11 - Dec 3, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Maybe now they’ll put him in the Hall of Fame where he belongs!!!!!!!

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Dec 3, 2010 at 1:00 PM

      Sadly, Ron’s said many times he didn’t want to be inducted to the HOF posthumously. I hope his wishes are respected, and it’s sad that he never got to live long enough to see the HOF committee get their act together while he was alive.

      Wrigley will always be his hall of fame, and there is no man in baseball that will ever be harder to forget than Ron Santo. He was a legend, and every Cub and Cub fan always appreciated him.

      I wish he could have lived long enough to see a Cub World Series, too. He was a remarkable guy. We’ll miss him every day.

      Thanks for the kind words, Craig. Ron’s loss is certainly felt deeply here in Chicago today.

  11. Ray Rothfeldt - Dec 3, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    I’m a Yankees fan, but can appreciate great players when they play elsewhere. That Santo never was elected to the HOF is one of the great travesties of the Hall; personally, another reason why sportswriters shouldn’t be given the honor of electing the members.

    Santo suffered for a long time with ill-health, although anyone who ever listened to a Cubs broadcast over the past 30 years would never have known it. RIP, Ron. You’ve earned your place among the angels.

  12. yukyukca - Dec 3, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    Who can forget (if you’re old enough and from Chicago) Santo, Kessinger, Beckert and Banks at one time in the 60’s was the starting infield for the National League Allstars. Thwow in Jack Brickhouse and Lloyd Pettit and my friends those were truly great days and seasons of baseball.

    Ron you were magic at third base for many years, rest in peace…

  13. jmhjr48 - Dec 3, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    A lifelong Cardinals fan, I should dislike Ron Santo. But as a baseball fan, I have nothing but respect and admiration for how well he played the game. With skill, class effort, and a hall of fame career and like another Great Cubbie, Mr. Banks, and several more not yet there, Santo should be in the HOF. No clue why the sportswriters don’t get it.

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