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Fans head to Wrigley, reflect on Santo's induction

Fans head to Wrigley, reflect on Santo's induction

Fans head to Wrigley, reflect on Santo's induction
CHICAGO -- Some tears came from joy. Many came from sadness that the late Ron Santo couldn't enjoy this moment for himself.

All the reasons for weeping stemmed from the same place: Cubs fans hold a special place in their hearts for Santo.

Every clip of Santo drew cheers and applause from fans at the Captain Morgan Club outside Wrigley Field on Sunday, where Santo admirers gathered to watch the legendary third baseman and broadcaster get inducted into the Hall of Fame on television.

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"I don't know where else I'd be for this," said Jenn Peterson, a Cubs fan since 1982. "Everybody here's remembering Santo, with all the jerseys. They showed his picture a little bit ago, several people down the row here started crying."

Perhaps the most emotional fan before the induction was Curt Marcucci, who placed flowers on Santo's statue outside Wrigley Field along with a sign reading, "It's about time." Marcucci described Santo, whose uniform was retired Sept. 28, 2003, as the heart and soul of his Cubs teams.

"I really wish he could be here," Marcucci said. "This should have happened 20 years ago."

Santo fan Ernie Florence agreed with Marcucci that Santo's induction into the Hall of Fame was the right decision, though he wished it had happened many years earlier. Florence said the former Cubs captain is right up there with Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins among Cubs greats.

"I never could figure that out," Florence said. "It's almost like somebody had it in for him. I don't know. He should have been in a long time ago."

A nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, Santo is one of four players with 2,000 hits, 300 home runs and 1,300 RBIs, along with fellow Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Williams.

Peter Gammons said before Santo's induction that his popularity was unmatched, calling every day at Wrigley Field an event when Santo took the field. The former captain, who played 14 seasons with the Cubs, missed just one game in his first five years in Chicago.

"That reliability is something seldom seen," Gammons said.

Santo fought diabetes throughout most of his playing career and through his 20 years as a Cubs broadcaster. He didn't even tell his teammates about it in the early stages of his career.

Teammate and former roommate Glenn Beckert recalled how Santo never complained about it. He just kept playing.

"Regardless of what he felt or his condition, he played as hard as anybody on our team," Beckert said. "He'd do anything to win a game, and he got a lot of base hits at critical times."

That same enthusiasm continued as a broadcaster, as Santo drew in even more fans in with his infectious personality and passion for Cubs baseball.

"He's absolutely my favorite," Peterson said. "Once he came into the broadcast booth, that's when I really got to know who he was. I didn't know too much about baseball. Pretty much everything I've learned about baseball the last 15 years is from him and Pat [Hughes]."

Santo died on Dec. 2, 2010. His legacy still lives on in Chicago and, now, in Cooperstown.

Rowan Kavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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