- Associated Press - Friday, December 10, 2010

CHICAGO (AP) - It didn’t take long for the tears to give way to laughter, and that figured, because smiles were never in short supply when Ron Santo was around.

It was only fitting that there were plenty even at his funeral.

The former Chicago Cubs player and broadcaster was remembered fondly Friday, with friends and colleagues praising his unbridled optimism in the face of health problems and the heartbreaking failures of his beloved team.

Santo embodied three virtues in particular _ joy, hope and courage, Monsignor Daniel Mayall told a quiet crowd gathered on a cold day for the funeral service at Holy Name Cathedral. Mayall suggested most would remember Santo’s joy, from clicking his heels after those 1969 wins at Wrigley Field to his unabashed rooting during WGN Radio broadcasts of Chicago games over the past 21 years.

“Yes! All right! Oh, no! Ah, jeez! Unbelievable!” Mayall said to laughs, reminding everyone of the familiar Santo outbursts that could be expected to come crackling over the radio, depending on the Cubs‘ fortunes.

“Joy was a virtue for Ron … joy was part of his life, every day and every season. … Ron Santo was a joyful man,” Mayall said.

Santo’s long battle with diabetes cost him both his legs below the knees, but he ultimately died of complications from bladder cancer at the age of 70 in Arizona on Dec. 3.

The service drew several hundred people, including Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, Ferguson Jenkins, Randy Hundley, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Jesse Jackson Sr.

Santo’s casket was carried solemnly outside and the procession headed north on Michigan Avenue as fans and well-wishers gathered on the sidewalks. Many applauded as the procession passed by Wrigley Field, where the marquee read “Ronald Edward Santo 1940-2010” and the main entrance served as a shrine to the legend.

There were flowers, Cubs caps and T-shirts, pictures, candles, beer cans and bottles. There were signs that read “RIP” and “God Bless” and letters from fans recalling how he touched them, how he always had time for them.

“It’s really nice what people have done out here,” said Margie Taylor of Chicago, who grew up watching Santo and was carrying a red album with photos she had taken of him in his playing days.

Santo simply had that effect on others, whether they were fans or teammates.

“He just could inspire other people to play their best, do their best,” said Banks, a Hall of Famer who was one of the pallbearers.

A nine-time all-star in his 15-year career, Santo hit .277 with 2,254 hits, 342 home runs and 1,331 runs batted in. He also won the Gold Glove award five times.

Santo was widely regarded as one of the best players not to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, something his teammate Williams believes eventually will happen.

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