The beloved Chicago Cubs. A team of great history, of tradition, of tragedy and of resilience. The better part of their legacy has been tainted by the dreaded, and not necessarily credible, “Curse of the Billy Goat.” Despite not having been to a World Series in over a century, the Cubs have exerted a massive presence on Major League Baseball, boasting some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game. There was Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub himself, an MVP back to back years in the late 50s. There was Ryne Sandberg, responsible for 282 home runs and over 1,000 RBIs over the course of his 15-year career. That said, let us pay tribute to none other than Ron Santo.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame, Santo was a man who played his heart out, who played with passion, who played for the fans as much as for himself. He was a clutch hitter, someone even cursed Cubs fans could count on to pull through. Dedicated to the better half of Windy City MLB franchises, he became a Cubs radio announcer for 20 years once he retired. He understood the Cubs fan’s loves and fears, their joy or frustration, and he gave them a voice whether he was racking up RBIs or he was announcing the games.
In 1999 Santo was voted onto the All-Century team of Cubs players. In his fifteen-year career, he was voted an All-Star an impressive nine times. A man of consistency, he was the only third baseman in baseball history to record eight consecutive seasons with a minimum of 90 RBIs between the years of 1963 and 1970. Of course, this is by no means to discredit his far-reaching fielding capabilities.
He was a Golden Glove winner five times throughout his illustrious career. Over the course of 1966-1974, he actually held the National League record for assists during the regular season. Although smaller than most at 6’0”, he was able to hit 323 home runs and drive in 1331 RBIs before retirement. However, perhaps Santos’ most impactful year was that of 1969, in which he hit .289, cleared twenty-nine home runs, and collected 123 RBIs. Following the end of the regular season, he finished fifth in MVP voting.
He was, in part, known for his famous ‘heel click’ after a Cubs win. It originated after Jim Hickman’s two-run homer on the Montreal Expos and Santo ran down the third base line while clicking his heels three separate times. After the game, manager Leo Durocher purportedly requested he keep doing the gesture, despite other teams ostensibly disliking it (likely perceiving it as showboating to some extent).
The heel click did not die with Santos’ career though. The day he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Cubs starting lineup all clicked their heels before the start of their game to pay the baseball legend the respect he deserves. His memory is not one to be forgotten, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.