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Chicago Cubs Flashback: Ron Santo a Hall of Famer

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Apr 5, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general shot of the marquee prior to a game between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; A general shot of the marquee prior to a game between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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My memories of Ron Santo are fond ones.

He was a throwback era type of player. He played hard and often wore his heart on his sleeve. He was a clutch hitter, and later, we found out he played his entire career with type 1 Diabetes, which after he retired, claimed the lower parts of both legs.

After his playing days, Santo was a Cubs radio announcer for 20 years and I can remember him uttering words of joy or frustration of a typical Cubs fan. He died when he was 70 and after years of waiting, he finally made it to the Hall of Fame, voted in by a new Golden Era committee, which did the right thing.

Was he the greatest Cub ever? No. Was he a great Chicago Cubs player? Yes.  And, in the long history of the franchise, at least in the modern era, there weren’t too many great ones.

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In 1999 he was voted on the All-Century team of Cubs players. Santo was a nine-time All-Star in a 15-year career. He was the only third baseman in MLB history to have eight straight seasons with at least 90 RBI, between 1963 and 1970.

He was a Golden Glove winner five times. From 1966-74 he held the NL record for assists in the single season. Later, Mike Schmidt of the Phillies would break his fielding records.  Santo played in 2,102 games, just 52 short of Eddie Matthews’ league record.

He was a 6’ 0” player who gave his all. He hit 323 home runs and drove in 1331 RBI. Perhaps his best year was in 1969, the year the Cubs made a strong run for the pennant, only to collapse in September. That year, he hit .289, belted 29 home runs, and drove in a career-high 123 runs batted in. He finished fifth in league MVP voting.

That was the year when Santo, started doing his famous ‘heel click’ after a Cubs win. It started on June 22, 1969, the day Jim Hickman hit a two-run home run to beat the Montreal Expos. Santo ran down the third base line and clicked his heels three times.

It has been said that manager Leo Durocher asked him to keep doing it after a Cubs home win. Santo did, but apparently opposing teams did not like the gesture. They thought they were being shown up. Santo’s last heel click game was on September 2nd, the last home game they played as a first place team.

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As a tribute to Santo, the day he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame, the Cubs starting lineup all clicked their heels before the start of the game.

I remember Santo hitting a big home run or driving in a bunch of runs. He often dove for hot drives to third and played with dirt covering his Cubs uniform. Santo played in the era of all days games.

On a hot day, the sun glaring down, he’d be crouched at third, waiting for the pitch, with dirt on his uniform. He seemed to be in his element.

Number 10 is a Cubs immortal.  If you saw Santo play, you were lucky.

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