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posted: 12/6/2011 5:00 AM

Time to click our heels for Cubs Hall of Famer Ron Santo

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By The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Daily Herald sports columnist Barry Rozner had it right last week when he wrote, "Hard to imagine someone who accomplished as much as (Ron) Santo did in baseball, business and life never was comforted by all he had done, that he believed it was an unfinished life without that appreciation."

And yet, that was Ron Santo and part of why he was so beloved. And today he is getting all the appreciation he longed for now that he has been voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

That the honor came posthumously certainly is sadly ironic. And one must wonder about a system that denied Santo the honor while living. After all, nothing has changed in the year since Santo died or in the years he waited by the phone for the call that never came. Nothing, that is, except for the makeup of the new Veteran's Committee.

But his family got the call on Monday. And we must celebrate with them the vote that finally moves Santo into Cooperstown alongside his teammates Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins and Billy Williams. Finally, all the Cubbie Blue bleeding Santo did over the years as a player and announcer has paid off.

"All who knew Ron or welcomed him into their homes on the radio recognize he was so much more than a Hall of Fame baseball player. He was the beating heart of Cubs fans," Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement Monday. "As an athlete, he was our All-Star. As a radio analyst, he carried our passion. For those battling illness or disease, he remains an inspiration."

Indeed, his physical battles -- and the way he dealt with them -- transcend almost anything else he accomplished. A diabetic, he raised millions of dollars for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation over the years.

This past weekend, it was reported that starting in 2012 the JDRF walks in Tempe, Ariz., and Tucson, Ariz., (Santo made that area his winter home) will both be known as the "JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes Celebrating Ron Santo."

His legacy lives on.

That's why, even though he at one time said he didn't want to get voted into the Hall after he was dead, we should celebrate with the kind of enthusiasm for which Santo was known. His children believe that's what he would want.

"We think he'd want us to celebrate it," his son, Jeff, told Rozner. "It would have been a big sigh of relief for him. I think it would be the happiest day of his life."

So click your heels for Ron Santo, a nine-time All-Star, a five-time Gold Glove recipient and the first Cubs third baseman and 10th Cubs player (a sweet nod to Santo's No. 10) overall to be enshrined in the Hall when he is officially inducted next summer.

While the timing may be bittersweet, the honor is no less deserving.