Blackhawks president John McDonough remembered Ron Santo on Friday as a friend and one of the most beloved players in Cubs history.
"I think the franchise with the biggest fan base in sports, arguably, lost their biggest fan today," said McDonough, who spent 24 years as an executive with the Cubs before leaving in 2007 to run the Hawks.
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McDonough heard from the Santo family Thursday and was told that the end was near.
"Received a call about 1:30 this morning and was jolted," McDonough said.
"He was really an inspiration to me and to millions of people. Here is a guy who played with diabetes, suffered through cancer, was a double amputee and probably was the most enthusiastic person that came to the ballpark every day."
While Santo never gained admission to the Baseball Hall of Fame despite deserving credentials as one of the best third baseman of his era, McDonough believes that day is coming.
"I wish he would have been here when he goes in," McDonough said. "I do believe that he will go in.
"I was proud to be there when we notified him that his jersey was going to be retired on Sept. 28, 2003, and he said that day it was the greatest moment of his life. During the ceremony he said, 'This is my Hall of Fame. It's more important to me.'"
McDonough was part of the process that put Santo in the Cubs radio booth.
"The fact is he was a tremendous player as well as a unique broadcaster," McDonough said. "The hallmark of his broadcasting is there was no preparation. There were many instances where he wasn't sure who was on our roster and he wasn't sure who was on the other team's roster.
"At one point we had Harry Caray on television and Ron Santo on radio and we had a chance to confuse people on both sides of the dial."