Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Stats tell the Story

Summer will come.
And the boys of summer will play their game again.
But for Cubs fans and players, things won’t be the same, because Ron Santo died last week at age 70 from complications due to bladder cancer.
After the comments I made about non-Hall of Famer Roger Maris a few weeks ago, it seemed only right to remember a northside legend who is widely thought of as the best player who’s never made it into the hall.
A 14-year player and 20-year radio color commentator for the boys in blue, Santo’s non-induction has served as a hot topic ever since he first failed to make it in.
I can’t really say why, but if you you want opinions, they exist in countless sports pages, sports blogs and sports bars alike.
And while I’m no stats geek, his numbers (342 home runs, 1,331 RBI, 5 Gold Glove Awards and 8 All-Star teams) seemed to put him well in the hunt for induction.
But it never happened for the old Cub.
And it really doesn’t matter.
Because the man himself might be better defined by some stats that have nothing to do with baseball at all.
Imagine this: During his annual physical before leaving for his very first minor league camp, doctors found sugar in Santo’s urine. At age 18, he was diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes, the most serious and insulin-dependent form of the disease.
Here’s the stat Ron Santo heard that day: A life expectancy of 25 years.
But what was possibly even more terrifying to Santo was the possibility that the disease would prevent him from realizing his dream to play major league baseball for the Chicago Cubs.
So he kept it a secret.
It wasn’t until Wrigley Field sponsored a Ron Santo Day in late in his career in 1971 that he announced to the world that he suffered from the disease that would eventually cost him both of his legs.
Then he set about trying to make some changes.
The Ron Santo story contains countless tales of calls and visits he made to young people diagnosed with the disease with a message of unfailing encouragement and endless hope. And that story includes an undying effort to find a cure...not for himself, but for all the estimated 120 million people affected by the disease.
Here’s another stat: Dollars raised for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation by Ron Santo:
$50 million.
Good game, number ten.
It’s cookie time.
One way to make me happy is to bake cookies.
A way to quickly deflate my joy is to bake them for someone else.
With the St. John’s Altar and Rosary Society’s annual Cookie and Candy Walk set for this Saturday from nine to eleven, our kitchen has been transformed into a maelstrom of heated activity, flour-covered cookbooks and crisis-level decision making. I wisely and hastily made my escape to the offices of the Star Courier the other day, planning to arrive back home only after the coast was clear.
Or, at least, that’s what I hoped.
“Honey, I’m home,” I called, thinking it might be cookie sampling time.
Bang. Crash. Rattle...and a cry of frustration.
I was immediately reminded of the famous line delivered in an iconic Walt Disney film of my youth.
“Run, Bambi, into the thicket and don’t look back!”
But it was too late. She had heard me come in.
“I’ve got a big problem here,” she said. (note: no written words can quite express the emotion with which this statement was delivered.)
Somehow, the handle to our oven door had just worked itself loose on one end, leaving a dangling piece of worthless metal that wouldn’t quite open a 350 degree oven filled with just-about-ready-to-burn cookies. But, after a some frantic thought and a quick dig into my junk drawer, a long-bladed screwdriver proved adequate to lever open the door and save the day. And the cookies.
After the door (and she) cooled down a bit, a trip to Hathaway’s True Value provided me with the hardware needed to repair it once and for all (I hope) and restore peace to the land.
“You’re my hero,” she said.
Uh, yeah. But where’s my cookie?

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