A new plaque goes on the wall on baseball’s Hall of Fame. A statue is removed from a place of prominence at Penn State. Ron Santo and Joe Paterno were not around to see the changes Sunday (July 22). One event was a joyous celebration for a third baseman once known for clicking his heels; the other event was a grim reminder that those placed on pedestals can have feet of clay (even if the statue is bronze).
Santo became greater far after his career than he apparently was when he initially was eligible to be voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. And so, the former ballplayer and radio color analyst was inducted posthumously into the shrine in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Santo’s widow Vicki gave the acceptance speech for one of Cubdom’s most beloved figures who dealt with diabetes throught his life.
“This is not a sad day,” she said on behalf of her husband, who died in December, 2010, from bladder cancer. “This is a great day. I’m certain that Ronnie is celebrating right now.”
The 2012 ballclub paid respect to Santo by having Sunday’s starting players take the field by clicking their heels (a short-lived tradition from the 1969 season, when the New York Mets overtook the Cubs for the National League title). After the contemporary Cubs took the field, they then fell flat on their faces, losing 7-0 to concluded a three-game sweep by the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Meanwhile, back in Cooperstown …
“Ron Santo was born to play baseball,” Vicki said. “He said his ability to play baseball was a God-given gift, that playing the game was easy and only the diabetes made the game hard. He believed he was given the gift of talent as well as the challenge of diabetes so that through his hardship, he could shed light on a cause, that he could help others through his story.
“I think he would say that’s why he has now been given the greatest honor any athlete could ever hope for from his sport: to be included among the greatest players who ever set foot on Earth.
“Perhaps more than anything, he loved the Cubs. God, how he loved the Cubs and the Cubs fans. Really, I want you to know, he loved you all so much. And he would be so grateful that you came here today to share this with him.”
Also inducted was former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, who attended the University of Michigan and aspired to play football for the Wolverines and coach Bo Schembechler in addition to playing baseball.
“He redshirted me my freshman year and told me that he was going to allow me just to play baseball,” Larkin said of Schembechler. “Occasionally, I’d call him while I was playing in the big leagues and told him that was the best decision he made as a football coach. He didn’t like that too much.”
Speaking of legendary football coaches, Penn State took down the statue of Paterno on Sunday morning in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the football program, the university and beyond.
Penn State pesident Rodney Erickson released a statement:
Since we learned of the Grand Jury presentment and the charges against Jerry Sandusky and University officials last November, members of the Penn State community and the public have been made much more acutely aware of the tragedy of child sexual abuse. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those victims of Mr. Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse. I assure you that Penn State will take a national leadership role in the detection and prevention of child maltreatment in the months and years ahead. With the release of Judge Freeh’s Report of the Special Investigative Counsel, we as a community have had to confront a failure of leadership at many levels. The statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium has become a lightning rod of controversy and national debate, including the role of big time sports in university life. The Freeh Report has given us a great deal to reflect upon and to consider, including Coach Paterno’s legacy.
Throughout Penn State, the two most visible memorials to Coach Paterno are the statue at Beaver Stadium and the Paterno Library. The future of these two landmarks has been the topic of heated debate and many messages have been received in various University offices, including my own. We have heard from numerous segments of the Penn State community and others, many of whom have differing opinions. These are particularly important decisions when considering things that memorialize such a revered figure.
I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, Coach Paterno’s statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our University and beyond. For that reason, I have decided that it is in the best interest of our university and public safety to remove the statue and store it in a secure location. I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse.
On the other hand, the Paterno Library symbolizes the substantial and lasting contributions to the academic life and educational excellence that the Paterno family has made to Penn State University. The library remains a tribute to Joe and Sue Paterno’s commitment to Penn State’s student body and academic success, and it highlights the positive impacts Coach Paterno had on the University. Thus I feel strongly that the library’s name should remain unchanged.
Coach Paterno’s positive impact over the years and everything he did for this University predate his statue. At the same time it is true that our institution’s excellence cannot be attributed to any one person or to athletics. Rather, Penn State is defined by our actions and accomplishments as a learning community. Penn State has long been an outstanding academic institution and we will continue to be.
The world will be watching how Penn State addresses its challenges in the days ahead. While some may take issue with the decisions I have made, I trust that everyone associated with our University will respond in a civil and respectful manner.I fully realize that my decision will not be popular in some Penn State circles, but I am certain it is the right and principled decision.
I believe we have chosen a course that both recognizes the many contributions that Joe Paterno made to the academic life of our University, while taking seriously the conclusions of the Freeh Report and the national issue of child sexual abuse. Today, as every day, our hearts go out to the victims.
At a news conference on Monday in Indianapolis, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced sanctions that included a $60 million fine and the loss of all victories from 1998-2011. There also is a postseason bowl ban for four years, a reduction of 10 scholarships per season over a four-year ban and probation for five years. Penn State players become free to transfer immediately and be eligible to compete.
The Big Ten said Penn State will not receive conference bowl revenue during the NCAA’s postseason ban. That’s about $13 million. The conference also may add further sanctions.
“Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” Emmert said.
Paterno’s record loses 111 victories and knocks him from atop the list of NCAA coaches. Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will be No. 1 on that list with 377. Paterno’s final tally is 298 victories. And one greatly diminished legacy.
Speaking of hall of famers (which we were certainly with regard to baseball), your humble correspondent had the good fortune to talk to one of the non-baseball variety. British-born adult actress Taylor Wane is an AVN Hall of Fame member. Plus, I believe, another one (some of us will have to admit to being distracted during the taping of an interview with her). Taylor took time during her recent visit for Exxxotica Chicago 2012 to talk about the qualities required for being a hall of famer and more.
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