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."