The best definition I've heard for the word magnetism is this: the power to affect others with the delight someone takes in himself.
Ron Santo was truly a magnetic person.
I met him several times, but the first time was the most memorable. I was hosting a Cubs talk show at a TV station in Chicago 10 years ago. Santo graciously agreed to appear. He stayed for most of the full hour, answering all sorts of questions about the Cubs' lack of a bullpen, how they needed to play better defense, and why he wasn't in the Hall of Fame. He joked during a break how nothing had changed in the 25 years since he had retired.
After the show, he hung around for a few minutes and chatted with some of the crew, posing for pictures. He was still in good health, his diabetes hadn't ravaged his body like it would in coming years. After one last brief exchange about Don Baylor's managing skills (the Cubs skipper at the time), Santo turned to me on his way out the door and said, "Jon, this broadcasting business isn't easy for guys like us. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. Always remember to thank your boss."
As he walked out I thought, how cool was that? Here was I, a young, raw broadcaster who had a fraction of the experience he had. He could have easily used his charisma to make me feel lucky to have spent an hour with him. Instead, he made me feel like we were in the same club.
Of course, when I was fired a few years later I wished I would have taken Santo's "thank your boss" statement a bit more to heart. That lesson remained elusive (ha-ha). But after that encounter in 2000, the Cubs gained a fan for life. Now, as a season ticket holder, there is nothing I look forward to more than baseball season and going to Wrigley Field. And this coming April, when I am sitting on my ice-stained seat opening day, I will do so with a bittersweet smile, thinking of the effect Ron Santo had on others by taking so much delight in himself.
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