Born: February 25, 1940 (1940-02-25) (age 67)
June 26, 1960
for the Chicago Cubs
September 29, 1974
for the Chicago White Sox
Career highlights and awards
Ronald Edward Santo (born February 25, 1940 in Seattle, Washington) is a former third baseman in Major League Baseball who played almost his entire career with the Chicago Cubs. He was named a National League All-Star 9 times during his 15 seasons of play (1960 - 1974), and won five consecutive Gold Glove awards for fielding excellence (1964-1968).
Santo made his debut with the Cubs on June 26, 1960. He played with the team until 1973, then finished his career with the cross-town Chicago White Sox in 1974. During his 14-season run with the Cubs, Santo hit 337 home runs; he was the first third baseman to hit over 300 home runs and win five Gold Gloves, a feat since matched by only Mike Schmidt, a Hall of Fame player.
In 1966, in the midst of trying to break the Cubs' team consecutive-game hitting streak, Santo was sidelined for nearly two weeks following a beaning that fractured his cheekbone. When Santo returned (and broke the record) he was wearing an improvised ear-flap on his batting helmet in order to protect the injury. Earflaps have since become standard equipment on batting helmets.
In the early years of his playing career, he carefully concealed the fact that he had Type 1 diabetes. He feared that had this information come out, he would be forced into retirement. As part of the publicity surrounding "Ron Santo Day" at Wrigley Field on August 28, 1971, he revealed his struggle with diabetes. He was diagnosed with this disease at the age of 18, and was given a life expectancy of 25 years. Santo has had both his legs amputated below the knee as a result of his diabetes; the right in 2001 and the left in 2002. Today, he is a Cubs broadcaster on WGN radio with play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes. He has also worked with Harry Caray, Thom Brennaman, Wayne Larrivee, and Bob Brenly.
Santo has been endorsing the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's annual Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes in Chicago since 1974, and has raised over $50 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). In 2002, Santo was named the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's "Person of the Year." Santo also inspired Bill Holden to walk 2,100 miles, from Arizona to Chicago, to raise $250,000 for diabetes research.
On September 28, 2003, Santo's #10 was retired by the Cubs organization, making him the third player so honored behind his teammates Ernie Banks (#14) and Billy Williams (#26). Other prominent Cubs had worn number 10 after Santo's retirement, notably Dave Kingman and Leon Durham. The most recent wearer had been interim manager Bruce Kimm, just the previous year.
In 2005, he came within eight votes of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee, and in 2007 he came within five votes. Bill James, arguably baseball's most respected statistical guru, feels Santo's elevation to the Hall of Fame is long overdue. Most informed and responsible baseball historians (including Bill James) believe that Gil Hodges (said to rate a bit higher) and Ron Santo are the two most deserving candidates on the Veterans' Committee ballot. The committee is next scheduled to vote in 2009.
Although disappointed at being bypassed, on the day his number was retired in 2003, the ever-optimistic "old Cub" told the cheering Wrigley crowd, "This is my Hall of Fame!"
In 2004, Santo and his battle against diabetes was the subject of a documentary, This Old Cub. The film was written, co-produced, and directed by Santo's son, Jeff.
In Chicago, Santo is well-loved for his unabashed broadcast enthusiasm, which he reveals with groans and cheers during the game. He also possesses a charming sense of humor. During one game, in which Angel Echevarria was batting, Santo casually asked play-by-play broadcaster Pat Hughes, "Pat, do you believe in angels?" Ron also has been known to engage in discussions about his variety of toupees. Santo and Hughes are also highly regarded among baseball broadcasters.