Santo a true 'hero' to all Cubs fans

CHICAGO -- As he stood behind home plate, in his own personal Cooperstown, former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo felt complete.

A flag with his No. 10 was being raised to the left-field foul pole. His beloved Cubs were National League Central Division champions. And some 40,000 fans were chanting his name.

No, this wasn't the Hall of Fame induction ceremony Santo has dreamed about for years, that never has come true. It was better.

"That flag means more to me than the Hall of Fame," Santo said. "I mean that. This is my Hall of Fame."

Santo played all but one of his 15 seasons with the Cubs. He was a nine-time All-Star, finishing with 342 homers and 1,331 RBI. His number was just the third the Cubs ever retired, alongside Ernie Banks and Billy Williams.

Santo has become even more popular since taking over as the passionate, pro-Cubs radio color man. On Sunday, Cubs vice president John McDonough couldn't resist the opportunity to poke fun at some of Santo's goofs. Like calling intellects rock scientists. Or referring to Carlos Baerga as Carlos Viagra.

"But you know what? That only endears him more to his legions of fans," McDonough said. "Ron Santo is a hero. He's our hero."

Doctors diagnosed Santo with diabetes prior to his rookie year. He played most of his career without anyone knowing he had the disease, but over the past two years, has had both of his legs amputated due to complications. He wears a prostheses and is often shuttled around Wrigley Field in a golf cart.

"With all the adversity I've been through, if it wasn't for all of you, if it wasn't for all your thoughts and all your prayers -- honestly -- I wouldn't be here right now," Santo said to the fans. You deserve a big hand yourselves."

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at wayne.drehs@espn3.com.