Vicki Santo hits a home run with induction speech


Vicki Santo hits a home run with induction speech

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- When Master of Ceremonies Gary Thorne introduced Cubs legend Ernie Banks Sunday, he said the day's motto was not "Let's play two!" as the Hall of Famer is famous for saying, but rather "Let's induct two!"

And that's exactly what happened at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y. Sunday afternoon. Only there was just one player on hand to make his own induction speech.

While Barry Larkin spoke for himself, Vicki Santo had to fill in for her late husband, Ron.

She had but one goal in mind when she walked up to the podium.

"It's for Ron," she said of her speech. "I just wanted to make him proud. I wanted to make him proud of me and our family. I was thrilled to do this."

Having a loved one make an induction speech for a player is almost unheard of nowadays, as players are typically voted in during their lifetime. But Santo's journey to the Hall of Fame was anything but typical.

As such, Vicki changed the standard format for her induction speech on Ron's behalf.

"His speech would have been all about his career, which is what it should be," Vicki said. "I couldn't talk about that, but I think there was a message in his journey and that's what I tried to get across to the fans, who he loved more than anything.

"He just loved them and I feel that this is closure for them. They were all right behind him, wishing that he could get in to the Hall of Fame and it happened, so we're thrilled."

Vicki admitted to succumbing to her emotions when she practiced the speech to friends and family before Sunday, but when it came time to follow through in front of thousands of fans -- many of which were decked out in Cubs gear -- and millions more watching on TV, she delivered in the clutch.

Vicki was an emotional rock at the podium, staving off tears and waves of sorrow and regret. Santo spent almost three decades striving for the Hall of Fame while he was alive, yet his induction came almost exactly a year after his passing. Instead of focusing on that -- which Santo's camp considers an injustice -- Vicki was insightful, genuine and grateful.

Her speech incurred a warm reception from the fans in attendance. Past Hall of Famers approached her after the ceremony to provide kind words, including former White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk and legendary pitcher Jim Palmer.

Journalists couldn't help themselves in the post-ceremony press conference. Instead of staying objective, they lauded Vicki for her moving speech and unwavering delivery.

Even Larkin, who followed Vicki with a speech of his own (that stretched on for 33 minutes), took a moment to turn to Mrs. Santo and said "Vicki, you were awesome! Great job!"

Johnny Bench, a Reds icon and good friend of Santo's, provided some comic relief between speeches when he donned a Cubs jersey and No. 10 hat for his rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and his Harry Caray imitation. Vicki said Ron would have thought Bench's performance was "hysterical."

Yes, it would have really been something to see Ron's reaction when he finally accomplished his lifelong goal. But Sunday allowed Vicki to deliver his message nonetheless.

"I think you all know how intense Ron was," she said. "Whether it was on the field, in the broadcast booth or in his fight against diabetes. And Ron loved with the same intensity. He loved his friends and he loved his family.

"Especially his children -- Ron, Jeff, Linda and Kelly -- and his grandsons -- Sam and Spencer. The intensity that Ron lived with will live on through our family's efforts to find a cure for a disease that so challenged him for 51 years of his life.

"And in his legacy, let it be know that here is a man who attained the highest honor his sport can give while playing with an insidious disease.

"He was an inspiration, and he will continue to be an inspiration."

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning


Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.

Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period


Blackhawks tie franchise record for shots on goal allowed in one period

Well, things could be going better for the Blackhawks during Sunday's game against the Lightning.

In the second period Sunday, the Blackhawks surrendered 33 shots on goal, tying a franchise record for most in a single period. The previous instance occurred March 4, 1941 against the Boston Bruins, a game that the Blackhawks lost 3-2.

While the Blackhawks tied a franchise record for shots on goal allowed, they actually set an NHL record at the same time. The NHL did not begin recording shots on goal as an "official" statistic until the 1997-98 season.

Consequentially, Sunday's 33 shots on goal allowed in the second period is the "official" record, even though the Blackhawks accomplished the "feat" nearly 80 years ago. Confusing, huh? 

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they also surrendered three goals and scored zero in addition to the plethora of shots on goal allowed. They recorded just six shots on goal in the second period themselves, trailing 4-1 by the time the third period started.