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Ron Santo should have received Hall of Fame news long ago

RSan(right) Cubs teammate Glenn Beckert sit their hotel room 1969 Waldorf AstoriNew York. | Sun-Times Media

Ron Santo (right) and Cubs teammate Glenn Beckert sit in their hotel room in 1969 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 5, 2011 1:09PM

It’s great news that Ron Santo has realized a lifelong dream.

But it’s really hard to balance that with the anger at the Hall of Fame for not letting Santo hear this with his own ears.

You can debate his credentials, even though you’d be wrong. He had some of the best numbers put up by third basemen—342 home runs, five gold gloves, all kinds of footnote achievements. And there was no better ambassador for the game.

You cannot debate that there’s nobody it would have meant more to—and there’s nobody who deserved it more when you factor in the perseverance he showed to keep the game he loved close to his heart.

When I was a kid, I idolized and obsessed about Santo and his Cubs teams. The ``this is not an eighth-place ballclub’’ Cubs that Leo Durocher guided to 10th place was as cherished, in an anguished sort of way, as the heartbreaking ’69 Cubs.

I was a vendor at Wrigley Field that year, and got to see Santo run up the left-field line, clicking his heels after Cubs wins. It was hokey, but it was so Santo.

We occasionally bumped into him on date nights at the Silo, a pizza joint in Lake Bluff. He and his good friend Glenn Beckert would be there with their wives, decked out in the skinny neckties of that era. We thought they were so cool.

And what a player. To do what he did while dealing with the diabetes that took both of his legs is pretty incredible. I’ve always believed the Hall of Fame’s obsession with longevity is over-rated. Santo had 10-plus really good years; more than enough to prove himself worthy.

But more importantly, what a human being.

He was entertaining as could be on Cubs radio.

One day, when a Cubs rookie received the ball after making his first hit, Pat Hughes asked Santo about his memorabilia.

``I never was all that big on that stuff,’’ Santo said. ``But I do have my 100th, 200th and 300th home runs. I also have my five Gold Gloves. And I have my two aluminum feet.’’

One year, I think it was 1999, I covered the Cubs for a weekend in Cincinnati. At that time, the Sun-Times beat writer sat in with Pat Hughes for a few minutes before the first game of each series. I was just a fill-in, but Pat and Santo could not have been more accommodating.

Before Pat and I went on the air, Santo and I were chatting, and he became so enthusiastic when we realized he lived in Bannockburn, a few blocks from where I had grown up in Deerfield, it was touching.

Ron Santo just had such an appreciation for life, and a love for baseball.

This is a great day. Shame on you, Hall of Fame, for not sharing it with Ron Santo.

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