When I was younger, I always thought that my dad's father died of yellow fever. I don't remember what actually killed him, but I was told later that it wasn't yellow fever. In much the same way of being confused by what I thought I heard, I always thought that my dad's favorite player when he was a kid was Ron Santo, but it was actually Richie Ashburn. I didn't learn the truth until I talked to my dad after Ron Santo died on December 3rd.
Interestingly enough, the Cubs have declared that my dad's birthday, his 64th, will be the celebration of Ron Santo's life and the new statue that will be displayed outside of Wrigley Field for this 3rd base great.
Santo and his 342 home runs and lifetime .277 average over 15 seasons (9 on all-star teams), were never enough for the Hall of Fame, but true fans know. Santo was a true fan of the Cubs, the team he became famous while playing on. He celebrated their trials and tribulations as a player and announcer and always seemed to believe that the Cubs would end their drought and the Curse of the Billy Goat, the stupidest curse in history, would be over.
All the same, heart problems, cancer, and losing both of his legs to diabetes took their toll on this baseball great first.
On August 10th, Chicago will play a low key game that very few people will care about. They're taking on the Nationals, and neither team will be fighting for playoff glory. It will just be another August game, but to the Wrigley Field and a few sportscasters and some die hard fans, we will take notice of a man who was truly great.
We're not asking for special favors like being let into a McDonald's in the wee hours of the morning to use the bathroom, which results in the temporary firing of an employee who gives into his star status.
We're not talking about a man who had questionable relationships outside of marriage and must wear a scarlet S on his chest as he tells neighbors where he lives in order to avoid jail time. Even football players fear the pokey. I know that I would.
We're not talking about a man who profiteers off of making animals fight each other to the inevitable death of one of them, but who deserves a presidential thank you to the coach who took his "chances" on hiring him again, despite the fact that there was nothing to lose in hiring a former all pro quarterback.
And we're not talking about how an entire town remembered his greatness because it led them to 2 Superbowl victories and moves them towards a third victory despite the fact that the only reason he's not in the slammer is because the evidence against him couldn't differentiate consensual violent sex and rape.
But Ron Santo is not Adrian Peterson, Lawrence Taylor, Michael Vick, or Ben Roethlisberger. He's just a baseball player from a different generation. He's not the kind of person that leaves the average person star struck. He's just a man and a great gamer from a different era who still inspires enough respect to be immortalized for all who care to find out the back story of a statue that will one day join other Chicago Cubs statues of Harry Caray, Ernie Banks, and Billy Williams - note that Ryne Sandberg isn't even on this list.
Somewhere is reverence for truth, justice, and the American way.
That's why baseball will always be the national pastime.