It's said so often because it's so true: Timing is everything. Sometimes a long wait makes even the littlest victories feel grand, and sometimes, if the wait is too long, even the best of things can turn bittersweet.
On Sunday afternoon, Tiger Woods won his first tournament since 2009. In the days and months since his last victory, he'd lost one wife, one caddie, several sponsors and who knows how many fans, but on Sunday he finally found his way to the top again, claiming the title at the Chevron World Challenge. The tournament, which benefits Woods' charity, is not an official PGA event, but the competition was stiff and the win did bump up Woods 31 spots to No. 21 in this week's world rankings.
A few years ago, a victory at the Chevron tourney would have been nothing more than a blip on Woods' radar. In fact, he'd won the tournament four times before. But this time around, it didn't matter that the field was only 18 golfers deep or that Woods' "real" season doesn't begin for another six weeks; he needed this win. After a wait of 749 days and 26 tournaments, Woods' small victory on Sunday felt as big as can be.
Of course for Ron Santo's family, 749 days of waiting is nothing. Try more than 11,000. On Monday, after 31 years of rejection and 18 times hearing the word "no," they finally saw Santo finally elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his 19th try. Fifteen of 16 Golden Era Veterans Committee members cast a "YES!" vote for him on Saturday, which was, coincidentally, the one-year anniversary of Santo's death. The honor is one that Santo's fans, family and former teammates can all treasure, but the man who so desperately wanted it couldn't hang on quite long enough to see his dream realized.
Santo's lifelong battle with diabetes caused him great suffering in his later years. The disease cost him both legs and forced him to battle through eye operations, heart attacks and bypass surgery. Just climbing the stairs to the booth at Wrigley Field to announce games was a struggle, yet no one called baseball with more enthusiastic ups and downs than Santo did. Last December, after his years of fighting, complications from diabetes and bladder cancer finally took his life.
When first I heard of Santo's long-awaited induction, my anger outweighed my joy. He won't get to deliver a speech in Cooperstown, won't ever get to sign a ball "Ron Santo, HOF '12," and those who loved and supported him were robbed of the chance to see his face light up after hearing the news. I just couldn't move past the bitterness to find the sweetness.
But as I ached for Santo, his widow, Vicki, found meaning in the timing of the announcement, saying it was "meant to be." When Vicki delivers her late husband's induction speech in Cooperstown, N.Y., this summer, she will remind everyone that anything worth fighting for is worth waiting for, too.
"[My speech] will be about 'never give up,'" she said Monday afternoon. "Even with this coming after his passing, it's about never give up. That's what Ron was all about."
Santo could have given up early in his Hall of Fame quest, just as easily as he could have given up early in his grueling battle with diabetes, but in both cases he fought until the very end with a strength that inspired anyone who knew him -- and plenty who didn't. There's an old saying that Father Time is undefeated, but Santo somehow emerged a winner, even in that fight. His message was to never give up, and his election to the Hall on Monday proves his fight didn't end when his life did.