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Ron Santo, Former Cubs Third Baseman Turned MLB Broadcaster, Dies at 70

Ron Santo, the former Chicago Cubs third baseman who went on to become a broadcaster for the Major League Baseball team, died yesterday at the age of 70.

Santo’s death was confirmed on the website of WGN, where he worked as a radio analyst on Cubs games. Santo died in Arizona from complications of bladder cancer, it said.

“He absolutely loved the Cubs,” Pat Hughes, Santo’s broadcast partner, told the Chicago Tribune. “The Cubs have lost their biggest fan.”

Santo had a lifelong battle with diabetes, which included the amputation of both legs, but continued to work as a radio analyst. WGN said he had been expected to return to the broadcast booth in 2011.

“He considered going to games therapeutic,” Hughes said. “He enjoyed himself in the booth right to the end.”

Santo played for the Cubs from 1960 through 1973 before joining the Chicago White Sox for a final season. A nine-time All-Star, he batted .277 over his 15-year career with 342 home runs and 1,331 runs batted in, and won five Gold Glove Awards for defense.

Santo was one of the leaders of the 1969 Cubs team that suffered one of the biggest collapses in MLB history. Chicago led the National League’s Eastern Division by nine games in August before losing 26 of its final 43 games to finish eight games behind the New York Mets, who would go on to win the World Series.

Photographer: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Late Chicago Cub third baseman and MBL broadcaster Ron Santo pictured here waving to fans during a retirement ceremony for Santo's uniform number 10 before a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept. 28, 2003, at Wrigley Field in Chicago Close

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Photographer: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Late Chicago Cub third baseman and MBL broadcaster Ron Santo pictured here waving to fans during a retirement ceremony for Santo's uniform number 10 before a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept. 28, 2003, at Wrigley Field in Chicago

Radio Rookie

In 1990, Santo joined WGN radio, the Cubs’ flagship station, as an analyst. He missed several road trips last season.

Listening to Santo on Cubs games was like listening to the broadcast with your grandfather because of Santo’s gut reaction and not the analysis of a play, said Brad Zibung, founder and editor-in-chief of The Heckler, a mostly satirical publication and website focused on Chicago sports teams.

“I always liked that emotion that came with his broadcasts,” Zibung, 34, said in a telephone interview.

Tom Ricketts, the Cubs’ chairman, said he and his brothers and sisters first knew Santo through his radio work, long before they bought the team.

“We knew him for his passion, his loyalty, his great personal courage and his tremendous sense of humor,” Ricketts said in a statement on the WGN website. “It was our great honor to get to know him personally in our first year as owners. Ronnie will forever be the heart and soul of Cubs fans.”

Santo was up for the nomination to the Baseball Hall of Fame 19 times without being selected. He came closest in 2007, when he fell five votes shy of election from the Hall’s Veterans Committee.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at bbensch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net.

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