Chicago Cubs Unveil Ron Santo Statue To Honor His Cubs Career
CHICAGO (AP)—The Chicago Cubs unveiled a statue of Ron Santo during a pregame ceremony outside of Wrigley Field on Wednesday, honoring the beloved player and broadcaster who died last winter.
The sculpture depicts Santo in his playing days, getting ready to make a throw. It was placed near the stature of longtime Santo teammate Billy Williams on the plaza directly southeast of the venerable ballpark, an appropriate setting for the Cub legend.
“Wrigley Field was his favorite place on Earth,” said Pat Hughes, Santo’s longtime partner on Cubs radio broadcasts. Santo died at the age of 70 last Dec. 3 of complications from bladder cancer and diabetes.
The scene around the ceremony was hectic. Fans numbering in the hundreds swarmed around the gated-off area set aside for the service, blocking Sheffield Avenue and two lanes of Addison Street, forcing westbound buses to veer off into oncoming traffic. Other fans watched from the crowded concourses inside the park and from the upper levels of a multistory bar across the street.
At one point during the ceremony, a fire truck, alarm blaring, had to ease through the crowd along Sheffield. At least two people collapsed during the speeches and had to be carted away on stretchers.
Santo was a member of the Cubs organization for the better part of five decades as a player (1960-74) and broadcaster (1990-2010). He hit 337 of his 342 career homers in a Cubs uniform, fourth most in franchise history, despite a decades-long battle with diabetes.
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts focused on how Santo touched the lives of many who suffered from juvenile diabetes through his fundraising efforts, which Ricketts estimated at $60 million during his lifetime.
“He connected with all of us because he was our fan,” Ricketts said. “He was the beating heart of Chicago Cubs fans everywhere and we’ll miss him dearly.”
As a broadcaster, Santo was known for unabashedly rooting on his beloved Cubs, a trait that endeared him to thousands who never saw him play.
“I don’t think I’ve met anybody that had the passion Ronnie did,” said Cubs manager Mike Quade. “And it was as sincere as the day was long.”
Hughes touched upon a long-running gag by joking that the statue would be“One of three things. Batting. Ronnie fielding. Or Ronnie with his hairpiece on fire.
“It’s going to be a beautiful statue, though.”
Santo’s widow, Vicki, sat with the rest of the family in the front row for the service and said that he knew that he was going to be honored with the statue, having been informed so by the Cubs last summer. She said he was thrilled.
“Vicki, do you know what a big deal that is?” she remembered him saying.
Santo’s son Jeff said his hustling style on the field as depicted by the statue was the perfect metaphor for his life.
“That’s how he lived his life,” Jeff Santo said. “He never stayed back on the ball. He was always moving forward.”
Santo’s statue, the fourth commemorative artwork outside Wrigley Field, was unveiled by former teammates Randy Hundley and Glenn Beckert to the sounds of trumpets and loud cheers from the throng gathered at Sheffield and Addison.
“We thank the Chicago Cubs and the Ricketts family for giving him a home forever,” Jeff Santo said. “And for giving all of us, everyone, a place to have to come and visit.”
Williams, Ernie Banks and broadcaster Harry Caray also have been honored with statues outside the ballpark.
Hall of Famers Williams, Banks and Ferguson Jenkins were n attendance, as were the widows of Caray and former Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse. Most of the current Cubs came out for the service, wearing special No. 10 blue ballcaps, as did Quade and most of the club’s front office staff.
“He was a remarkable person,” Banks said. “Ron Santo did not have an enemy. He loved everybody.”