Friday, December 3, 2010

Goodbye Ronnie.

Ron Santo died today. I feel sad of course, but mostly I am just angry. I know that isn't any way to live life, but in this case I think some anger needs to be released, because the Santo family is too classy to do it themselves.

Ron Santo played 14 seasons for the Chicago Cubs. He was one of the greatest third basemen of all time. He was never elected to the Hall of Fame. Journalists had years to put him in, then the Veteran's committee had their opportunity. Through arrogance, derision, our outright jealousy they denied him his place while he lived. Now, more than likely, Ron will be inducted posthumously. That is an outrage and and an offense of grand proportion. Ron developed diabetes at 18 and played his entire major league career with the condition. He never had the medication or the treatment that would have prolonged his career or could have prevented the amputations that robbed him of both of his legs a few years ago. He put up numbers that rank him as one of the best players of all time, period. The stats don't lie people.

Ron smiled through it all. He never let the insult get him down. He was the epitome of class to the very end. Ron deserved better. The Hall of Fame is filled with racists, cheaters, junkies, and others whose entire existence never held a candle to Ronnie's. He was a champion of the game, and he was champion in life.

So I find myself standing for his defense. After Ron ended his playing career, he became an announcer for the Cubs on the radio. Ron was the voice of the fan. The heart of every bleacher bum was Ronnie. He called the games as his emotions dictated. It was never in-depth, but it was always from the heart and it was never mean, never cruel. I don't know if Ronnie had it in him to be spiteful.

Those members of the Veteran's committee who never voted for him before but will vote for him now should be ashamed. Through their own arrogance, they have denied a man his reward for a lifetime of love dedicated to the game. Ron deserved the chance to speak before the assembled throngs of Cooperstown. He deserved to see an ocean of Cubbie blue filling the lawn to applaud his induction. I have always felt that if you earn your seat in Cooperstown, you deserve it from the day you hang up your spikes. I don't believe in the absolute sham of voting that exists today. No one will ever care about how may votes it takes to get into the Hall. The only thing that matters is induction. We will never know who kept Ronnie out, but I can take a guess. They were people who built their own careers off the greats that played with them. They had teammates who enhanced their stats and helped win them championships. They held it against Ronnie that he never won a World Series. Which, the last time I checked was impossible to do by oneself in the game of Baseball.

My heart weeps for the Santo family. Ronnie's number hangs from the foul pole at Wrigley to wave until the game of Baseball is wiped from human history. The city of Chicago has lost a legend. They have lost a role model. They have lost a beloved friend. Fans of all teams knew and respected Ronnie. They feel his loss almost as dearly as Cub fans do. He will be greatly missed and his legacy will live on. The young man, the Cub, the embodiment of joy in the game of Baseball clicking his heels in the summer of '69 will never be forgotten.

We love you Ron. In our hearts and minds there is no one better.