In Elmwood Park, the corner of 75th Court and Armitage isn't anything special. Modest one or two-story bungalows line the streets in a neighborhood that hasn't changed much in the last 50 or so years.
Only a few blocks away, mansions adorn the streets of River Forest, where former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano once called home (he put that home on the market in October for over 900,000). The differences in housing represent a difference in time periods, at least for baseball players.
Ron Santo lived at 1934 N 75th Court in Elmwood Park from his days as an up-and-coming Cubs third baseman through the late 1960's. It's a small house that doesn't have an upstairs. Fire-red bricks line the outside, giving way to neatly-trimmed bushes and a verdant green lawn. It's not the kind of house in which you'd expect a professional athlete once resided.
The block of 75th Court between Cortland and Armitage was named Honorary Ron Santo Way by the village of Elmwood Park Monday morning. Plenty of longtime Elmwood Park residents still remember the time when a star athlete was nothing more than their neighbor.
"I've heard many stories about him just being a member of the community, playing catch on the driveway of his house, just mixing with the neighbors," Peter Silvestri, village president of Elmwood Park, said. "Ron Santo has the reputation of being one who took time with kids, took time with fans who lived among the people, among the fans."
Back in Santo's heyday, multi-million dollar salaries were unfathomable. As a 22-year-old, Santo earned 22,000 from the Cubs. Ernie Banks' 65,000 in 1968 was on the high end, while a young Ken Holtzmann was paid 15,000 in 1967.
Baseball players couldn't afford to live in palatial homes. It's hardly a knock on players today who do, given they have the means to do so. But Santo only rented the house in Elmwood Park, and his middle-class living arrangement was hardly out of the ordinary.
"He's someone that we recognize as a true Chicago legend, and we're very proud of the fact that he lived in our community for the period of time that he did," Silvestri said. "He's remembered by a lot of people very fondly -- it's one thing to know someone as a legend like a baseball player, but it's also interesting when they're also your neighbor."