Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ron Santo Will Be Part of Wrigley Field Forever

If you bleed Cubbie Blue, then this story from the Daily Herald tonight will make your heart swell. You may know that the Cubs don't typically allow people to have their ashes spread at Wrigley Field, although Steve Goodman's ashes are in the outfield.

That changes Thursday when Ron Santo's ashes take their rightful place in the stadium Ron so loved. Now when the Cubs finally win the World Series, Ron will be there.

For the record, Ron Santo more than deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and it's my Christmas Wish that the Golden Era Committee makes up for this egregious error.

Santo will forever be part of Cubs, Wrigley
By Barry Rozner, Daily Herald, August 7, 2011

No member of the family would discuss the private aspect of their tribute, but a Cubs source said it would occur Thursday. His son Jeff would say only that he’s looking forward to concluding another chapter in what has been a long and public mourning process.

“I think this is going to be the last hard thing, finally saying goodbye,” Jeff Santo said Sunday. “I didn’t feel like I really said goodbye at the funeral, and I’m going to make sure I do it now.

“Everything that happened last December was so fast. It was a whirlwind and it’s all so hazy when I look back on it. But I think now with the statue and the end of the season coming, the patch on the jerseys almost done, I think this is finally the end of it.

“I’m not looking forward to the emotional part of it, but I’m looking forward to some closure.”

Jeff was then reminded that his late father will face yet another Hall of Fame vote this fall, with the announcement coming within days of the anniversary of Ron Santo’s passing.

“That’s unbelievable,” Jeff Santo said with a laugh. “There you go, so I guess it doesn’t end right there this week. I’ll be on pins and needles again.”

The new Golden Era Committee, comprised of members of the Hall of Fame, executives and veteran media members, will consider managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players whose best years in the game took place from 1947-1972.

The announcement will be made during the winter meetings in Dallas, only a day or two after the anniversary of Ron Santo’s death on Dec. 3.

If there were to be one final irony in the amazing journey that was No. 10’s, it would be that he is elected posthumously after suffering through so many election disappointments the final decade of his life.

But to bet on it now would be foolish when Santo didn’t come close in the past.

“Well,” Jeff Santo chuckled, “at least this time he won’t have to sit by the phone and be disappointed again. That’s one thing we can feel good about.”

It hasn’t been an easy year for Ron’s wife, Vicki, or the kids — Jeff, Ron Jr. and Linda — celebrating Ron’s life in full view and getting little chance to reflect in private.

But such is the process when a man is as beloved as Ron Santo.

“It’s been really tough for Vicki and for Linda because she’s lived next door to him for a long time in Arizona and my dad was always with her and the grandkids,” Jeff said. “He always came back to Arizona in the fall after the season and it’s not going to happen this year, and that’s going to hit hard.

“Linda’s son Sam is throwing out the first pitch Wednesday. He made Little League all-stars this year. My dad would have loved that. Sam’s playing his best baseball now and my dad’s not here for it. He would have loved going to those games.”

Jeff still finds himself wanting to dial his dad’s cellphone, frequently locating the speed dial number before catching himself.

“I did it the other day after watching that Curt Flood special on HBO,” Jeff Santo said. “That was my dad’s era and I wanted to talk to him about it.

“I just want to call him and hear him say, ‘How’s it going, son?’ I miss him a lot. As crazy as it sounds, he was really doing great. He had survived so much. I just didn’t expect that to be the end.”

It was tough on Ron’s birthday in February, and it was tough again when Jeff got his wedding photos, seeing how good his dad looked on 10-10-10.

“Father’s Day I was a wreck,” Jeff said. “I went to a Diamondbacks game and thought that would be perfect. Turns out it wasn’t the best idea. I spent more time at the pub thinking about my dad.”

So the Santo family seeks an emotional resolution, and they should receive that this week when a statue of Ron is placed outside Wrigley Field. An appropriate spot would be at Addison and Sheffield, near teammate and pal Billy Williams.

“The great thing is this will be so cool for the fans. My dad really loved this team and these fans,” Jeff Santo said. “And he would have been truly overwhelmed by getting a statue. It’s forever. He would have considered that as great as the Hall of Fame.”

In a very public ceremony Wednesday, the Cubs will celebrate the life and career of Ron Santo, sharing with his fans the unveiling of a statue and a flood of memories.

And in a very private ceremony the next day, Santo’s family will spread his ashes about Wrigley Field, presumably at third base, and perhaps around home plate — though one can still imagine Santo clicking his heels from third base, down the line and into the left-field corner.

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