Cubs set to unveil Ron Santo statue

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs will honor the career and life of Ron Santo on Wednesday as they unveil a statue of the beloved third baseman near his teammate Billy Williams' outside Wrigley Field at Sheffield and Addison.

Santo played on the North Side from 1960-73. He spent his final season with the White Sox. The popular third baseman was a nine-time All-Star, won five Gold Gloves and hit 342 career home runs.

After retiring, Santo went into the truck stop and restaurant business before coming back as a radio color analyst for the Cubs in 1990. His freewheeling style of broadcasting brought him legions of fans for 21 years before his death in December 2010.

The statue unveiling will take place on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. CT as Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and his family present the organization's fourth statue. (In addition to Williams and Santo, Ernie Banks and Harry Caray have statues.) Santo's family, Banks, Williams, Ferguson Jenkins, Glenn Beckert and Milt Papas are among those expected to be in attendance. Current Cubs Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster will also be on hand.

"It's a great honor for Ronnie," Wood said. "One I wish he was around to celebrate. I'm looking forward to seeing some of his old teammates and some of my old teammates. My wife Sarah and my children will be there as well."

Dempster, like Wood, was very close to Santo.

"I was very fortunate to be around Ron for seven great years," Dempster said. "I learned a lot from him. But he probably taught me more about being a better person than being a better baseball player. Ronnie was a pretty incredible individual. You'd never know what he was going through on a physical or personal level. He never complained. He only complained when we lost a game."

Santo played his entire career with diabetes. After his playing days ended, he became a spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, raising millions of dollars for the cause. His annual golf outing has continued on after his passing.

"People who are fans of Ron are never going to forget him," Dempster said. "But what a statue does is remind you how impactful that person was to the franchise and the fans. It's a huge deal. For instance, when you go to Detroit and you see statues of Al Kaline and Ty Cobb then you go to Pittsburgh and see Honus Wagner and Willie Stargell. This generation can tell the next generation how important those players were. And a statue certainly points that out."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com.