CHICAGO — Ron Santo, one of the greatest players in Chicago Cubs history and a longtime WGN radio announcer whose devotion to the perennial losers was made obvious night after night by his excited shouts or dejected laments, has died. He was 70.
“Ronnie will forever be the heart and soul of Cubs fans,” Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement Friday.
Ricketts also praised Santo for “his passion, his loyalty, high great personal courage and his tremendous sense of humor.”
Santo died in an Arizona hospital from complications of bladder cancer, according to WGN Radio. Santo was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 18 and later lost both legs to diabetes.
A nine-time all-star in his 15-year career, Santo was widely regarded as one of the best players never to gain induction into the Hall of Fame. The quiet sadness with which he met the news year after year that he hadn’t been inducted helped cement his relationship with the fans.
But nothing brought fans closer to Santo – or caused critics to roll their eyes more – than his work in the radio booth, where he made it clear that nobody rooted harder for the Cubs and nobody took it harder when they lost. Santo’s groans of “Oh, nooo!” and “It’s bad” when something bad happened to the Cubs, sometimes just minutes after he shouting, “YES! YES!” or “ALL RIGHT!” became part of team lore as the “Cubbies” came up short year after year.
“The emotion for me is strictly the love I have for this team,” Santo told The Associated Press in August 2009. “I want them to win so bad.”
Santo began broadcasting games on WGN radio in 1990. Even though the Cubs failed to make the World Series in his lifetime, Santo once said his association with the team probably prolonged his life.
“If I hadn’t had this when my troubles started, I don’t know if I would have survived,” he said in September 2003. “I really mean that. It’s therapy.”
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