CHICAGO — Ron Santo, a legend in Chicago as a former Cubs third baseman-turned-wildly popular announcer, died Thursday in Arizona. He was 70.
According to WGN, Santo died from complications of bladder cancer. Santo was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 18 and later lost both legs to amputation.
Santo was expected to work the coming season as an analyst for the Cubs flagship radio broadcast on WGN-AM 720.
In a statement Friday, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts praised Santo for “his passion, his loyalty, high great personal courage and his tremendous sense of humor.”
Santo will always be “the heart and soul of Cubs fans,” Ricketts said. The team plans to celebrate Santo’s contributions to the franchise in the coming days.
Santo played for the Cubs from 1960-73 before finishing his career with the White Sox in 1974. He became a Cubs broadcaster in 1990.
Santo was the quintessential Cubs fan and made no apologies for his on-air cheerleading or his utter frustration over a Cub’s misplay.
Santo never witnessed his longtime goal of election to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite career numbers that mark him as one of baseball’s all-time great third basemen. He finished with a .277 average over 15 major league seasons, with 342 home runs and 1,331 RBIs.
Santo was up for the Hall of Fame on 19 occasions, and first appeared on the Veterans Committee ballot in 2003.
Though Santo came close to Cooperstown enshrinement in the last decade in voting by the Veterans Committee, he always fell short. In 2007, Santo received 39 of the 48 votes necessary to reach the 75 percent threshold of the living 64 Hall of Famers to cast a ballot. His 61 percent led all candidates and no one was elected to the Hall.
It was the fourth straight time the Veterans Committee had failed to elect a member, leaving Santo frustrated.
“I thought it was going to be harder to deal with, but it wasn’t,” he said that day. “I’m just kind of fed up with it. I figure, ‘Hey, it’s not in the cards.’ But I don’t want to go through this every two years. It’s ridiculous.”
Santo was consistent that he did not want to make a posthumous entrance into the Hall of Fame. After being denied so many times, he was resigned to what is now the only possibility.
“(Induction) wasn’t going to change my life,” he said. “I’m OK. But I know I’ve earned it.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.