Ron Santo’s wife, Vicki, said she would have much preferred her husband give his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday.
“Rest assured that he’s laughing at my expense to see me squirm a little bit,” she said.
She said words could not express her sorrow that Santo didn’t live to see his enshrinement.
Vicki filled in for the late Cubs third baseman with grace and took the spotlight. Her speech may have been the most inspirational of all. Those in attendance probably learned more about Santo as a person than if he had given the speech himself.
She described a guy who hid his diabetes from teammates for 10 years, a guy who nearly passed a teammate on the basepaths after hitting a grand slam because his sugar was low and he needed to get back into the dugout to eat a candy bar, a guy who told a nurse that his second leg amputation, in 2002, came at a perfect time because he’d be ready in time to return to the Cubs’ broadcast booth, and a guy who continued to broadcast games over the final 10 years of his life despite many challenges. We learned about the years of his struggles with diabetes, and how he raised $65 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“Ron’s life was never about lows,” Vicki said. “He always found a way to make it about highs.”
Her stories were compelling and emotional. Yet, she seemed compelled and unshaken. But Barry Larkin was the one shedding tears.
“This is not a sad day, not at all,” she said. This is a very happy day. It’s an incredible day for an incredible man, a man who lived an extraordinary life to its fullest. Indeed, he had a wonderful life. From the humble beginnings of Garlic Gulch to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a spectacular journey fraught with trials and tribulations and incredible lows and highs.”
According to Vicki, Santo’s ability to play baseball was a God given gift. She said playing the game was easy for him, and that it was only the diabetes that made the game hard. “Looking back, he believed he was given the gift of talent as well as the challenge of diabetes so that through his hardship, he could shed light on a cause that he could help others through his story,” Vicki said.
“Santo believed it’s not what happens to you in life that people may judge, but how you handle what happens to you in your life,” Vicki said later in her speech.
Thanks to Vicki, thousands of people, if not more, now know about the life and heroic journey of the 2012 Hall of Famer.