My husband uttered those words minutes after waking up and per his usual morning routine, logging on to ESPN’s Web site for the morning’s sports news. Whenever he says, “Oh, no” I think something must have happened in our family or to a close friend or something. I forget that in some cases, sports is like family to him. “The Tribune is reporting that Ronnie died,” he said.
“Ron Santo?” I asked in disbelief. I knew that must have been who he was talking about. There are no other “Ronnie”s in our life.
Though I never met him, I felt a bit of grief come over me. And a longing to be in Illinois. I prefer to grieve with those who grieve and in Illinois we would find no shortage of baseball fans grieving this loss. In Pennsylvania, we might find a handful of fellow Cubs fans who will miss the fun Santo provided to radio listeners. Mostly, though, we will process this loss alone. And the grief may not be as heavy as it would be if we were in Illinois.
He wasn’t family or a close friend, so maybe it seems weird to be affected by his death, but anyone who listened to radio broadcasts of Cubs games felt a connection to Ron. His whole heart and soul was in every game, even if they were losing by 10 or mathematically out of the pennant race by July. He lived and breathed the Cubs. Now the Cubs will have to go on without him.
What saddens me most about his death is all the accomplishments he won’t get to see. He died without seeing the Cubs win a World Series. He died without being voted into the Hall of Fame. Those things may yet happen, but he won’t be around to celebrate them.
The Bible has its own “Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11. The writer of the book lists people who accomplished great things for God, who suffered great things for Him. Yet, it says this about them: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” (Hebrews 11:39)
Seems unfair, right? To live a life of faithfulness and service and never see the end result.
Hebrews also says this: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (11:1) and “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (11:6)
Ron Santo epitomizes faith to me. I don’t know his personal beliefs about God, Jesus or heaven, but in terms of the Cubs, he had faith in the tough times. He never gave up on them. He faithfully did his job day after day, believing that someday the reward would come. Sure, he had his ups and downs. He was openly disappointed about the close calls, the failed seasons and the mistakes. But that didn’t stop his faith in the Cubbies.
I am a Cubs fan, but I don’t pin my hopes on them for anything. My hope is in the living God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is infinitely more faithful than a sports team could ever be. (That feels like the world’s biggest understatement.) But I’m humbled by the faith of this baseball legend, wholly committed, fiercely loyal to his team. My faith in God should be as such, whether I ever see the reward this side of heaven or not.