DALLAS — Ron Santo always kept rooting for the causes dearest to him — for his Chicago Cubs to win the World Series, for doctors to find a cure for diabetes and for him to reach the Hall of Fame.
On Monday, Cooperstown finally came calling.
The barrel-chested third baseman who clicked his heels in victory was elected to the Hall, overwhelmingly chosen by the Veterans Committee nearly a year to the day after he died hoping for this very honor.
"It's really exciting because so many years that we had parties over to his house in spring training saying this is the year, I'd tell him this is the year you're going in," said Hall of Fame teammate Billy Williams, a member of the voting panel.
"The one thing, of course, is he's not here to enjoy it, but his family will. He long awaited this, and we're all happy. I know I'm happy, his family is happy, the fans of Chicago are happy," he said.
Santo was a nine-time All-Star, hit 342 home runs and won five Gold Gloves. He was a Cubs broadcaster for two decades, beloved by the home crowd for the way he eagerly cheered for his favorite team on the air, hollering "Yes! Yes!" or "All right!" after good plays and groaning "Oh, no!" or "It's bad" when things went wrong.
Shortly after the announcement, Santo's flag — white with blue pinstripes, plus his name and No. 10 — was flying from the center pole atop the scoreboard at Wrigley Field.
"There was always kind of a missing piece of the puzzle of Cubs' history," team owner Tom Ricketts said.
Santo breezed in with 15 votes from the 16-member panel that met at baseball's winter meetings. It took 75 percent — 12 votes — to get chosen.
"I've got tears in my eyes writing this: congrats to the Santo family on Ron's election to MLB Hall of Fame. A good day to be a Cub fan," tweeted Chicago-area rocker Billy Corgan, frontman for the Smashing Pumpkins.
Santo died Dec. 3, 2010, from complications of bladder cancer at age 70. He had diabetes, which eventually cost him both legs below the knees, and worked tirelessly to raise millions for research into the disease.
Williams was on the line when Santo's widow, Vicki, got the congratulatory phone call.
"Ron has passed, but it was always his dream, to even have this come to him after his passing. It just shows you can't give up," she said during a conference call from Arizona.
"All he said (was) I hope I get in in my lifetime, that's certainly a reasonable request for anybody who gets an honor as special as this one. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be," she said. "With his lifetime every disappointment that came along, he was very disappointed."
Said daughter Linda Brown: "I know, even if my dad were here today, he would never reflect on any of the wrongdoings, so to speak. ... There would be no bitterness, it would just be him being happy, and I believe he is."
Santo joined former Cubs teammates Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins and Williams in the Hall. That famed quartet did most everything at the Friendly Confines through the 1960s and early 1970s except bring a World Series to the ivy-covered ballpark.
"With Ernie, myself and Fergie, those players he played with ... to hear this kind of news today that he's inducted in the baseball Hall of Fame is really gratifying because so many times that we talked about it, it's a place he wanted to be," Williams said.
Santo will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 22, along with any players elected by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Jan. 9. Bernie Williams joins Jack Morris, Barry Larkin and others on that ballot.
"This is a great day for baseball and for Cubs fans everywhere," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "Ron was a staple of the Cubs' experience every single day for decades."
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