Durbin Pays Tribute to Ron Santo on Senate Floor

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today celebrated the life of Chicago Cubs legend, Ron Santo, on the floor of the U.S. Senate.


“Baseball may one day see a third baseman with the playing skills of Ron Santo. But it's hard to imagine that we will ever again see a ballplayer with greater loyalty or love for a city, its team and its fans,” said Durbin.


Text of Durbin’s remarks as prepared below:


Senator Richard Durbin

Statement on Passing of Ron Santo

December 3, 2010


Last night Chicago - and America - lost a hero. Ron Santo was a Chicago Cubs legend and an inspiration to anyone who has ever fought a tough, uphill battle.


During his 15-year career with the Cubs, he batted .277, with 342 home runs and 1,331 runs batted in. He was a nine-time All Star and five-time National League Gold Glove winner. In four seasons each, he batted .300, drove in 100 runs, and led the league in walks.


What the public did not know for most of Ron Santo's career is that he lived everyday with a life-threatening illness.


Ron Santo hid his diabetes from the public for ten years because he didn't want anyone to pity him or hold him to a different standard. He wanted to be judged the same way every ballplayer is judged - by the numbers. And by that standard, Ron Santo earned his spot among the greats.


We can't know how much better Ron Santo's statistics might have been had he not played his entire career with a life-threatening illness, in an era that suppressed the long ball, for a team that, God bless them, never once saw post-season action - but that doesn't matter. Simply put, Ron was the best third baseman in Cubs history and among the best third basemen in the history of the game.


The last decade of Ron's life brought challenges that would have sidelined many others.


In 2001, Ron lost the lower portions of both legs to diabetes. He had earlier survived a bout of cancer and endured more than two dozen surgeries.


In his later years, he walked on prosthetic legs that slowed his gait but not his dedication to the Cubs or his work for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, where he served on the board of directors.


On October 3rd, as he had for the last 32 years, he hosted the annual Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes in Chicago, to raise awareness and funding for research into a cure.


Baseball may one day see a third baseman with the playing skills of Ron Santo. But it's hard to imagine that we will ever again see a ballplayer with greater loyalty or love for a city, its team and its fans.


Ron Santo fell in love with the Cubs as a kid in Seattle watching the Game of the Week on TV. He once said: "It was Wrigley Field, Ernie Banks - something about this ballpark and the Cubs fans."


When it came time to sign, other clubs offered more money, but Ron Santo wanted to be a Cub.


He could have made more money at the end of his career as well by leaving Chicago. Instead, in 1974, Ron Santo became the first player to invoke his privilege under the league's "5-and-1 0 rule," declining a trade to the Angels because he wanted to finish his career in the city he loved.


That kind of dedication to a team and its fans is something you hardly ever see anymore, in any sport.


Since 1990, Ron Santo lived out his love for the Cubs as commentator in the booth, providing color commentary on WGN Radio Cubs broadcasts.


Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly described Ron's commentary this way. He wrote: Ron Santo "loves them Cubs like Pooh loves honey...He does not call the game - he lives it. ... He cheers so much that it sounds like his play-by-play partner Pat Hughes is broadcasting from Murphy's bar."


And in the words of broadcaster Pat Hughes, "The Cubs have lost their biggest fan."


Ron Santo's boisterous 7th inning stretch renditions of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Wrigley Field, a tradition that he carried on after the passing of Cubs legend Harry Caray, could make anyone smile - even a Sox fan.


Ron Santo was considered for entry into Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame an astonishing 19 times. The last time was in 2008. Sadly - wrongly, in my view - Ron Santo never made it to Cooperstown. But he took that disappointment the way he took so many other bad breaks in his life: with dignity and grace.


In September 2003, the Cubs retired Ron Santo's number 10. It now hangs at Wrigley Field, along with the numbers of his former teammates Billy Williams and Ernie Banks. Ron Santo famously said, "that is my Hall of Fame."


But "This Old Cub" deserved more. Like his fellow Cubs whose retired numbers also hang proudly on the Wrigley Field foul poles – Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, and Ryne Sandberg - Ron Santo should have been in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That he never made it is the only regret you could have about his career.


Ron Santo was a ballplayer who lived large, played through unimaginable pain, broadcast the game with all his heart and left an indelible mark on Cubs fans everywhere. Whether he was staring down an opposing pitcher or staring down diabetes, he gave it his all, every day. We will miss him.