For Santo's family, Hall nod a chance to celebrate

For Santo's family, Hall nod a chance to celebrate

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Ron Santo's family is here in force this weekend. And though the late Cubs third baseman is alive only in memory, his three adult children said on Saturday that they all are celebrating his belated induction with joy and conviction.

"He was a humble man. He laughed at himself," Linda Santo-Brown, at 42 the youngest of his three children, said about her famous father during a media conference inside the Clark Sports Center. "He would've said thank you over and over again had he been here. He would certainly thank the committee. He would have been emotional. There would've been really true tears of joy. He would've still been this humble person who couldn't have believed this had happened."

It finally happened after all these years. And on Sunday, Santo will be inducted into the Hall along with Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. The ceremony opens at 1:30 p.m. ET behind the Sports Center and live coverage is slated to begin on MLB Network and simulcast on MLB.com an hour earlier.

Santo was represented at Saturday's gathering by the three children from his first marriage: Ron Jr., 52, who is the spitting image of his father and a sports marketer living in Chicago; Jeff, 48, and a filmmaker who produced a documentary about his dad that was updated and shown Saturday on MLB Network, and Linda, who is in ad sales for Arizona Sports Radio and the mother of Santo's only two grandchildren, both boys. Jeff and Linda live in the Phoenix area.

Their stepmother, Vicki, is expected to make her late husband's acceptance speech on Sunday. Their mother, Judy, who also lives in Phoenix, did not make the trip.

For the family, this weekend was a long time coming.

"Yes, he wanted this for himself, but he wanted it for his family, and I will always stand by this," Linda said. "So we're still achieving it. And this is a true celebration."

Santo, who retired in 1974 after 14 years with the Cubs and one season -- his last -- with the White Sox, was passed over by the Baseball Writers' Association of America all 15 years he was on the ballot. He missed the cut on numerous versions of the Veterans Committee before he was elected by 15 of the 16 members of the Golden Era Committee last December, joining Cubs teammates Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins and Ernie Banks in the Hall of Fame. All are here to honor their fallen friend.

Santo battled diabetes his entire adult life, losing both legs during the period of time he became a beloved Cubs broadcaster. Santo, at 70, finally succumbed to bladder cancer on Dec. 3, 2010.

His kids characterized Santo as a self-deprecating man who joked about his own condition, telling his grandchildren during the winter that his feet were cold even though he moved around on prosthetic legs. He even had home and road Cubbie versions of those legs, Linda said. Inside, though, it was difficult for all them to wait and wait and wait for that call from the Hall that seemed would never come.

"It was disheartening, to say the least," Jeff Santo said about the missed opportunities prior to his father's death. "He was still around when they changed to the Golden Era Committee. We had a good feeling, and even he had a good feeling that this could happen. And then when he passed away, we didn't even really want to think about it until the day it happened. And I remember being at my sister's house and I didn't know how I was going to feel. When we got the call I was upset that he wasn't around, but there was nothing except joy in the room."

Santo is only the 16th third baseman among the 207 players in the Hall. Wade Boggs (2005), Paul Molitor (2004), George Brett (1999) and Mike Schmidt (1995) were the latest additions. And Molitor, who didn't nearly play his entire career at third base, considers himself to be a tenuous selection at that position. From Santo's era, only Eddie Mathews (1978) and Brooks Robinson (1983) are already in the Hall. All of them are among the 112 players elected by the BBWAA.

Prior to this year, second baseman Joe Gordon (2009) was the only Major League player elected by a Veterans Committee since Bill Mazeroski in 2001.

"My dad was always passionate as a player," Ron Jr. said. "He always said that when he crossed those white lines, no one was his friend. But then when he became a broadcaster, he kept that passion and became a fan. It all came together. That's what really brought him here to this Hall of Fame. It was that passion. It was genuine. I thought it was genuine. He was that type of person. He lived with his heart on his sleeve and played the game that way."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.