“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve
I don’t like to look up to any ordinary man, never have, never will. My standards are high when it comes to looking up to someone. My hero has never been a singer or a famous super model; that has never fit my criteria. My only hero has been Ron Santo, and let me tell you, Ron Santo was no ordinary man. All of you know Ron Santo; you know he played all but one season for the Chicago Cubs, he is one of the top third baseman in Major League Baseball history with numbers that included 342 home runs, 1,331 RBI, a .277 career batting average, the National League leader in walks four times and a resume that included nine All-Star Game selections. Defensively, he was a 5-time Gold Glove Award winner. He won one each season from 1964-68. On December 5, 2011, he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Era Committee. I remember that day. I remember breaking down in tears because I felt so happy, but also, such great sadness. Santo was finally inducted into Baseball’s Hall Of Fame on Sunday July 22, 2012, and with numbers like those, you can see why the call to the Fame was appropriate. There is only one problem…Ron Santo is no longer here to receive such great honor. An honor that he lived for, something his heart so deeply desired. After being passed up so many times, he finally received the accolade that he worked so hard for.
There is no question that Ron Santo was a great baseball player, but even more than that, Ron Santo was a great man. He lived his life with a burden. In the early years of his playing career, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which he kept a secret for so long because he feared that if this information were to be known, he would be forced into retirement, because the methods of regulating diabetes in the 1960s were not as advanced as they are today. He was diagnosed with this disease at the age of 18, and by 2002 he had both his legs amputated below the knee as a result of it, but not even that would slow Ron Santo down. He had this burden, but he didn’t see it as that, he saw it as an opportunity to help others. Santo joined the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and began the Ron Santo Walk for the Cure in Chicago from 1979 until his death, and raised over $60 million.
Being friends with Anno means I get Cubs related news right away when it happens, but on December 3, 2010, he woke me up with news that I never wanted to receive. Ron Santo had passed away due to complications from bladder cancer and diabetes. It was very hard getting up that day, going to work and putting on a brave face, I couldn’t imagine how his family felt. I did not know Ron personally but I didn’t have to. I was not old enough to watch him play, so I basically “met” him through the radio broadcasts. I immediately became attached to him, I think what drew me to him was his intense love for the Cubs, that is something we both shared. When I read his story and found out what kind of life he had lived, that is when he became my hero. Watching his induction on Sunday was very bittersweet for me as I’m sure it was for many more including his family. I was so upset that it took this long for him to be inducted, but Ron’s widow, Vicki Santo did a great job with the speech and she started out with this: “This is not a sad day, this is a happy day, an incredible day for an incredible man.” That helped me calm down and enjoy such a special day. All in all, it was a great weekend; a weekend many of us had been waiting for.
Ron Santo was my hero because he loved baseball, and he loved the Cubs but mainly because Ron Santo didn’t let anything take him down. There were many lows in his life, but every time that I would see or hear him, he had a smile and a joyous attitude. A hero doesn’t wear a cape or has superpowers, a hero to me is someone who despite any obstacle still keeps going. Someone who instead of moping around, takes those challenges and turns them into something great. I never had the honor to meet Ron Santo, but there is no doubt in my mind that I will one day. I did however, have the honor to meet his son, Ron Santo Jr. this year at the Cubs Convention. I nearly cried while talking to him, but didn’t because I didn’t want to creep him out, lol. He was so gracious. He was super nice and so approachable, just like his father, I’m sure. If Ron Santo taught me something in life is to never stop fighting and to always smile. I try to take advantage of every day, and I see each one as a blessing. So, smile, have goals, and love those around you more than anything. Ron Santo is no longer on this Earth but he will always be in our hearts. We miss you Ronnie, #10 on the field but #1 in our hearts!
Thanks for reading and Go Cubs!