Santo family reflects on his legacy

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Ron Santo’s children had a chance to reflect collectively on the upcoming induction of their father into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The fact that the Cubs icon, who will officially become a Hall of Famer during Sunday’s ceremony, did not live long enough to enjoy the honor is still disturbing to the family.

“If he could talk from where he is now, he would probably say to the Veterans Committee that didn’t vote for him, ‘I’m sorry I offended you,’” said Jeff Santo. “I also think he would have said to the rest of the people that did, ‘thank you so much, this is a great game and honor.’”

Santo was extremely close to his three children. Were he alive at the time of receiving the honor, Santo surely would have been thrilled for them and his wife Vickie. Instead, they will accept the honor in his place.

“It is disappointing that he won’t be here to accept for himself, but his legacy to us is the Cubs,” Jeff Santo said. “They were the ones who retired his number and put a statue up long before he got his due here in Cooperstown. His love for the city of Chicago, the Cubs, the fans and the game transcend this great honor. All that and the JDRF work that he did is his legacy. The Hall of Fame is his purple heart.”

Santo, who had the second most RBIs in baseball from 1960-70, was incensed that he had been passed up by many of the same players he competed against during his glory days. Those same players for an eight-year period comprised the electorate for the Veterans Committee vote.

“We said as a family, (forget) this if it happens when he is not around,” Jeff Santo said. “Time goes by and it heals all wounds. We are out here with all Cub fans to enjoy this and honor him, because at the end of the day, he would have wanted us to do that.”

Santo’s daughter Linda was emotionally impacted when I told her of the devastation her father expressed when he found out she had cancer.

“I don’t talk about it because I wanted this weekend to be all about him,” she said. “He knew what it was like to have dark days and he got me through it. To see your child have to go through that, I know how hard it was on him, but he helped me stay positive. He said ‘you are going to make it honey, you are and going to do it.’ I did and he had a lot to do with it, because I am (well), and he and I were looking so forward to getting on track together.”

Santo found out at the same time he received word of Linda’s illness that his bladder cancer had come back. That illness eventually took his life in December 2010.

“I feel like he has helped me get stronger from where he is now,” Linda Santo said. “Even losing him has not taken away from what he taught me and my fighting spirit. He always helped others in need, this time he didn’t have to go so far from home. The good news is before he passed he told me that his faith had been renewed and that my healing was the reason. He said he was content with his life and that he was able to do what he loved -- playing baseball, broadcasting and providing for his family. He said he was OK and that he was grateful for what his life had been and now that is how I feel.”

Ron Santo Jr. spent the most time with his father as a business partner the last year’s of the new Hall of Famer’s life.

“This is not about us as the current descendents, but about Ron Santo’s legacy,” he said. “This is about him taking his rightful place with the greatest players in the history of baseball for of our descendents and Cub fans to honor.”