Ron Santo's Secret on the Field
The inspiring story behind his struggle with diabetes—and letting his teammates know the truth.
It's funny. I always thought I'd make my biggest mark as a ballplayer, but it was after I started speaking up about diabetes that I really made a difference.
Since 1976 I have been on the board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and I've been told that the annual walks for diabetes we sponsor in Chicago have raised more than $24 million dollars for research.
My own health stayed good until I turned 60, in 2000. Then, inevitably, the disease caught up with me. In the last three years I've had 15 operations. In 2001, circulatory problems necessitated the amputation of my right leg below the knee.
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Shortly before last Christmas, I lost my left leg as well. I was fitted with state-of-the-art vacuum-seal prostheses that fit so well and so painlessly that my legs feel as if they're my own.
I'm doing the things I love: working for the Cubs as a radio analyst, being with my family, riding my horse and speaking to groups about diabetes.
I tell them about my career and what incredible support I got when I shared my secret. I remind people that there's no reason the disease should prevent them from utilizing their own God-given gifts. That's why he gave them to us.
And then I tell them about that sweltering summer day in 1967, when I stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and Cubs trailing, 2-0, and my head spinning because my blood sugar level had suddenly tumbled.
On the mound was Bill Singer, a two-time All-Star with a wicked curveball. My problem was this: I saw three Bill Singers, one on top of the other. His first pitch came at me looking like it was attached to a Slinky. What did I do? I had no choice: I swung.
The ball soared higher, higher, out of the park—one of six grand slams I hit in my career. Now that's what I'd call a God-given gift.
Ron Santo is the beloved radio analyst for the Chicago Cubs.