- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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The Ron Santo statue at the corner of Sheffield and Addison depicts the five-time Gold Glove winner at his best, on the run, throwing out a base runner in the prime of his illustrious 15-year major league career.
Santo’s family, including his wife, Vicki, his sons, Jeff and Ron Jr., and his daughter, Linda, were all in attendance at Wednesday’s unveiling, and Jeff Santo spoke to the crowd about his father’s zest for life.
“When we were going through the footage for the film about my father, we found some film of my dad giving instruction on how to play third base. In the film he said this, ‘When the ball is hit to you, you should always move forward on the ball. Never stay back on the ball and let the ball play you. You play the ball.’ That’s how he lived his life. He never stayed back on the ball. He was always moving forward. Every challenge, all the adversity that came his way, he charged it like he was making a play at third base. This statue really does symbolize that. He was a great father and a great man and a great inspiration.”
The statue lists many of Santo’s accomplishments on the field and in the broadcast booth, but more importantly it tells of his humanitarian needs, including his commitment to JDRF, for which he personally helped raise $60 million during his lifetime.
“Ron was a lucky guy,” Vicki Santo said. “I don’t know an organization that has honored a player more than the Chicago Cubs have honored Ron. To Ron, the Chicago Cubs was his family. So much so, that he never worried when he went in to negotiate a contract. He said, ‘Vicki, they are my family and they will do what’s right for me.’ “
Santo’s former teammates in attendance included Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins. All three gave speeches about Santo as a teammate and a person. Former catcher Randy Hundley and second baseman Glenn Beckert, Santo’s best friend and one-time roommate, helped unveil the statue.
“When I hit my 500th home run, Ronnie got the hit to win the game,” said Banks, whose statue sits at Addison and Clark. “Ron was such a clutch player, so determined. His spirit lingers with this organization. He is my Hall of Fame and he belongs in THE Hall of Fame.”
Broadcasters Pat Hughes and Len Kasper were co-masters of ceremony for the event. Although Santo died in December of 2010, Vicki Santo said he knew about the statue before he died.
“In 2010, Crane Kenney called and told Ron, ‘We’re putting up a statue of Billy in front of Wrigley Field, and the following summer [Santo’s] statue would go up. He did know about the statue and he was so excited. He said to me, ‘Do you know what a big deal that is. I can’t believe they would do that for me.’”
Santo’s grandson, Sam Brown, threw out the first pitch before the Cubs’ game against the Nationals. Santo’s favorite player and close friend Kerry Wood was the catcher.
The Cubs got the Ron Santo statue, unveiled on Wednesday, just right.