COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- When the Golden Era Committee held their meeting late in 2011, Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Williams went to bat for his teammate, Ron Santo.
Everybody knew Santo's career numbers, but those were not enough to earn him a place in Cooperstown for the three decades his name was on the ballot. So Williams made a big push to the other 15 members of the Committee and emphasized Santo's incredible work in searching for a cure for diabetes.
Santo played 15 years in the major leagues and silently battled his own diabetes all the while. He kept it a secret throughout his entire playing career and eventually lost both his legs to the disease.
"That was Ron," his wife, Vicki, said at Sunday's Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. "He never said, 'why me?' He just moved on to the next challenge. The last few years of his life, he had so many things wrong with him and so many different needs, that every single thing that we take for granted -- taking a shower, making a sandwich -- required a lot of different moving parts.
"But he didn't complain and he did not want sympathy. He believed he'd been chosen to go through these things so that he could deliver a message of perseverance, to inspire those with problems of all kinds.
"And above all, he felt it was his job to try to find a cure for juvenile diabetes."
Santo raised more than 65 million for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) over his lifetime. He spoke with countless diabetic fans and inspired children stricken with the disease.
"He worked so tirelessly for juvenile diabetes," Vicki said. "The thing that people don't really realize is not just was he diabetic and working for the cause, but he took the time with anybody that would come up to him.
"They'd say 'my daughter's been diagnosed.' He would sit down with the daughter, eye-to-eye, and talk to them and say 'you can do anything you want to do.' He'd talk to the parents on how to handle it."
In Santo's memory, Vicki and the foundation hold a charity walk every year in October. This past year, the first event after Ron's death, they raised 4.9 million in one day.
"He believed in his journey and he believed in his cause," Vicki said. "His journey has led him here to Cooperstown and his cause is finding a cure. He fought the good fight and though he is no longer here, we must find the cure.
"Ron always believed in a season in which the Cubs could win. He always believed a game was within reach. He also always believed he would find a cure. We can't let him down.
"Walk for the cure. Run for the cure. Donate to research for the cure. Or just pray for the cure. But find a cure."