COOPERSTOWN (July 22, 2012) – The late Ron Santo, newest inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, was honored by Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, and Bob Gibson at ceremonies Sunday in this upstate New York village. Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball, recalled how Santo “belted home runs and snared line drives” as the Chicago Cubs’ third baseman during a golden decade when Santo was “the grit and glue of the Cubs line-up.”
“We celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies today,” said Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. There are now 207 players, 35 Negro League members, 27 executives, 19 managers, and 4 umpires enshrined in the Hall. These 297 individuals represent the top 1 percent of those who have played major league baseball since the late 1800s.
An estimated 14,000-17,000 fans watched a short video clip by Pat Hughes, Santo’s broadcast partner from WGN-TV. Hughes recalled Santo’s enthusiasm and passion as well as his many endearing off-the-cuff comments during broadcasts. “OH GOSH,” “OH NO,” and similar statements endeared Santo to listeners and those with whom he worked. Hughes played a four-decades-old shout from Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse: “Man, oh man, did Ronnie come up with a good one this time!”
It is customary for players inducted into the Hall of Fame to make an acceptance speech, but unfortunately Ron Santo died in December 2010. His wife, Vicki, gave the acceptance speech.
“I’d rather have Ron up here than me,” Vicki Santo said. “But today isn’t sad — it’s an extremely happy day for an incredible, extraordinary man who lived life to the fullest and had a spectacular career in baseball.”
“Ron said his diabetes was the only thing that made playing the game of baseball hard. Before science caught up with diabetes he was his own guinea pig. He played doctor, patient, and third base. Before or during a game he often had to use a candy bar or orange juice to adjust his sugar levels in his blood. He hid his disorder for a decade. He was afraid they’d take baseball away from him.
“Ron related to everyone as the World’s Greatest Cubs Fan. He loved the game, he loved the broadcast booth, but most of all — he loved the fans. He never said, ‘Why me?’ He just moved on to the next challenge. He believed he’d been chosen to go through life to inspire people with problems of all types. He felt he was here for that reason. He would be so grateful that so many of you came here today to honor him.”
– William Van Ornum is professor of psychology at Marist College and director of research at American Mental Health Foundation, in New York City.