Legendary Cubs third baseman and radio announcer Ron Santo passed away Thursday night after succumbing to complications from bladder cancer. He was 70.
Santo enjoyed a Hall of Fame caliber career with the Cubs throughout the 60s and early 70s putting up record breaking numbers with both leather and lumber. Despite putting up impressive statistics, he never earned a spot in Cooperstown, a constant source of disappointment.
Santo signed with the Cubs in 1959 as an amateur free agent and first stepped on the field June 26th, 1960. Early in his career, he set team records with 41 double plays at third base and led the National League in assists from 1962 to 1968. He earned five Golden Gloves.
His fifteen year garnered a .277 batting average with 1331 RBI. He led the league four times in walks and played in nine All-Star games. In 1967 he finished fourth in voting for the National League MVP.
Despite his numbers, he failed to impress voters when it came to Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Compared to other third baseman in Cooperstown, his offensive numbers fall on the short side of impressive but during his era batting averages were down due to raised pitcher’s mounds and larger strike zones.
t the age of 18, Ron Santos was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. He carefully kept his condition secret fearing that public knowledge of his disease would force him into retirement. He revealed his condition on August 28th, 1971 during Ron Santo day at Wrigley Field. The disease cost Santo both his legs below the knee.
In 1974, Santo started the Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes which supports the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. His efforts garnered $50 million for the foundation.
Santo joined Cubs play-by-play caller Pat Hughes on WGN radio as a color commentator. While not particularly skilled at the fine arts of broadcasting, Santo showed a genuine enthusiasm for the game that harkened back to his days as a heel clicking player.
Known for his skills on the diamond as well as his passionate, sometimes abrasive persona, no one can question Santo’s love for baseball and his importance to the history of the Cubs. The number 10 flag will wave proudly from Wrigley Field for generations to come.
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