(Seattle native Ron Santo signs autographs at Safeco Field during a Cubs interleague visit in 2002. Seattle Times staff photo by Dean Rutz).
Santo’s life was a testament to overcoming adversity. He suffered from diabetes his entire adult life, leading to the eventual amputation of both legs. He also had heart issues and cancer — the latter is what finally did him in. But despite all that, Santo was unfailingly upbeat and positive. I interviewed Ron numerous times, the last of which was last June, when I went to Wrigley Field to do a story on Lou Piniella prior to his return to Seattle with the Cubs for an interleague series. He was excited about the possibiliy of the Cubs getting back in the race — but that was Ron. He was ALWAYS excited about the Cubs getting back in the race.
I’m sure every Cubs fan has two regrets on Santo’s behalf — that he never made it into the Hall of Fame while he was alive (I have always believed he belonged), and that he never got to see the Cubs win the World Series. Ron never complained about the former, even though he had his hopes raised, and then dashed, so many times, upon each meeting of the Veterans Committee to reconsider his candidacy. But the latter was his undisguised goal in life. Ron never tried to hide the fact that he was the No. 1 Cubs booster, which is what made him so beloved in Cubs Nation, both as a player and broadcaster.
Santo, a graduate of Franklin High School, always clung to his Seattle roots proudly. Here’s a blog post I wrote last year that excerpts a long article on Santo I wrote a few years ago. I’ll have more later, but right now I have to get my kids off to school.