With today’s news of the passing of Chicago Cub, Ron Santo, I’m compelled to contribute to his legacy.
After being a part-time Wrigley Field bleacher bum in 1968 and ’69, I had the privilege of living next door to the Santo family from 72 to 77. From observing samples of his personal life, I learned that being a celebrity is NOT the easy job that most of us would imagine. Fans (fanatics by definition) are sometimes known to behave badly, especially after a disappointing game. Bad behavior from fans could also touch Ron’s family members in the school yard or the back yard. For example, he occasionally endured drive-by hecklers while sitting with his young children in the back yard.
From observing Ron and others, I believe that performing well in the “job” of Sports Celebrity requires a unique skill set. Those who lack these skills generate the negative headlines. Ron Santo avoided those and instead quietly earned high marks as a personable public figure.
Ron handled his celebrity status with a unique graciousness. He understood that being a celebrity provided him with an opportunity to positively influence the people he contacted. He developed great skills for complimenting others. He found ways to make your day. And he was known for going out of his way to do so.
He didn’t have to be complimentary to me or express a genuine concern for my family, especially after we were neighbors. But he always did. And it always made my day.
It is unlikely that Ron Santo could never have taught me how to hit a big league curve ball. Or, to earn a Gold Glove like the one that glistened above his fireplace. But upon reflection, he taught me the power of graciousness and set a high standard that I still aspire to.