Chicago Cubs: Fighting the fight for himself and others
Santo suffered from Type 1 Diabetes since the age of 18, though he did not publically reveal his disease until the 1971 season.
The disease develops in the pancreas when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells, which produce insulin. Without insulin, a diabetic will accumulate excess amounts of sugar in the bloodstream, causing circulatory problems, which can lead to blindness, kidney failure, hardening of the arteries, gangrene and potential limb amputation.
When he was diagnosed with the disease, he was given a life expectancy of 25 years. Santo eventually had both legs amputated below the knee as a result of his diabetes, his right in 2001 and his left a year later in 2002. Despite being beset by the disease, he didn’t let it stop him and remained cheerful. In 2008, he developed and shared a close bond with Cubs rookie Sam Fuld, who also suffers from the same disease.
Since 1979, the Santo family has been heavily involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Since 1976, his annual Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes in Chicago has raised over $65M for the organization. In 2002, he was named “Person of the Year” by the foundation.
Santo died on December 3, 2010, due to complications from bladder cancer and diabetes. At his funeral on December 10, former teammates Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Randy Hundley, Glenn Beckert and Billy Williams served as pallbearers. His casket was draped with the No. 10 flag that flew over Wrigley the day his number was retired.
He was cremated and his ashes were scattered on the place he loved the most, Wrigley Field.