Two days before Sunday's emotional ceremony at Wrigley Field, a couple of friends asked Ron Santo what it would mean to have the Cubs retire his uniform No. 10.
"It will be my Hall of Fame," he said.
Santo reaffirmed that feeling a few moments before Sunday's ceremony at home plate in advance of the Cubs' final regular-season game.
"I meant that wholeheartedly," Santo said. "I'm not even going to worry about [the Hall of Fame vote] for the next two years" when he is eligible again.
Finally, after former teammates Randy Hundley and Glenn Beckert hoisted a flag bearing Santo's No. 10 up the left-field foul pole, Santo told 40,000 cheering fans: "This flag means more to me than the Hall of Fame. This is my Hall of Fame!"
Even the elements seemed to cooperate with Santo on his day. Just as he was being introduced, bright rays of sunlight broke through the cloud cover.
Realizing the significance of this phenomenon, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks smiled and pointed to the sun. The crowd broke into a wild cheer.
Santo was more than a Gold Glove third baseman who hit 342 home runs.
He played the game with such passion and enthusiasm that he forged bonds with fans of all ages and backgrounds.
This was evident Sunday by the people who approached him for handshakes or hugs.
They ranged from corporate big shots to Wrigley Field concession workers and ticket sellers.
Fans held signs expressing their feelings for Santo.
"Ron Santo, A Perfect 10" was the message on a huge banner on the screen behind left-field bleacherites.
"Wrigley Field Is Santo's Village" was painted on one bedsheet.
"Hall Of Fame Next, Ron" read another sign.
Another fan built his sign around the commercial for a credit-card company: "Hot Dog $3. Ticket To Game $36. 10-14-26 Priceless."
The last three numbers referred to the uniform numbers of Santo, Banks and Billy Williams, the three Cubs whose numbers appear on the flagpoles at Wrigley Field.
Santo was severely disappointed early this year when he failed to poll enough votes to enter the Hall of Fame.
But Sunday, that rejection seemed the furthest thing from his mind.
When it came time for thanks, Santo remembered the Cubs organization, his former teammates, his broadcasting companions and the fans.
"The Cubs organization has completed my life, as far as I am concerned," said Santo, referring to the number retirement.
"I picked the Cubs because of Wrigley Field and Ernie Banks," Santo said. "I met Billy Williams when I was 18 years old in the minor leagues in San Antonio. We went on to play more games together than any two teammates, more than 2,000."
Speaking of the fans, Santo said, "This would not have been possible if it were not for all of you. You deserve a big hand. I wouldn't be here now if it weren't for you."
Santo then told the crowd what it most wanted to hear, drawing the loudest ovation of the ceremony when he said:
"And we're going to go all the way! I love you!"Copyright © 2015, CT Now