I don’t always bring an opinion like this to the blog, but I’m going to today.
Just a little while ago, Ron Santo was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Era Committee. This is a version of the old Veteran’s Committee, but it’s now broken up into three eras. Each year, a different era is voted on.
Santo is the lone person to get the necessary 75 percent of the vote, which was decided upon via a 16-member panel for the committee. Ten people (eight players, two execs) were considered. The Golden Era ballot covered people from 1947-1972. Santo was one of the biggest names on this year’s list and had been long considered during previous Veteran’s votes. It seemed a few years ago he was almost a lock.
But, as had been the case in the past, he fell short.
Santo, who long battled diabetes and other issues, died Dec. 3, 2010 — a year shy of knowing he would officially be a Hall of Famer.
Could his death be part of this vote? Possibly. The Vets had a chance to vote him in at times during the past, and never did. Now he’s elected. And that’s a shame as I think Santo’s speech would have been priceless.
During my time as a sportswriter, I covered many things with the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There were many elections where I scratched my head and wondered why someone was or was not elected. At times, when dealing with the regular election — which is all by the Baseball Writers’ Association — there can be factors that cause someone to be elected or not.
Allow me to preface that the Hall doesn’t decide who is and who isn’t a Hall of Famer. There are voters for that — the Baseball writers, the Vets etc. And, often, I understand why people aren’t elected even though I might *hope* they be elected. Some people were awesome. Just not great.
In an era when baseball was a bit more pure, Santo played for an awful team and still was a dominant force. His place in Cooperstown is highly justified.
A nine-time All-Star, Santo had 342 home runs and earned five gold gloves at third base during his 15-year career with the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox (one season) from 1960-1974. He finished with a .277 average. He had 2,254 hits in 2,243 games — so he averages a bit more than a hit per game. He also had 1,331 RBIs, had 365 doubles.
Santo was nearly unanimous on this ballot — garnering 15 of 16 votes for a 93.75 percent. A player needed 12 votes to earn enshrinement. Jim Kaat received just 10 votes for 62.5 percent. Gil Hodges (nine votes), Minnie Minoso (nine votes) and Tony Olivia (eight votes) rounded out the top five.
Now, let’s also look at some other things.
The love-affair with Santo is mixed a lot with his time with the Cubs — as a player and as an announcer. He was a true Cubs legend. When he announced, he was what people would refer to as a “homer.” But that was all part of Ron Santo.
I’ve always been a fan of Santo as a Hall of Famer. I’m happy he finally made it.
When I was covering the Hall of Fame, several of us used to look forward to the Hall inductions based on who was going in — and if we thought there would be a good speech. For example, when Rickey Henderson was elected, we knew it would be fun to be there because the speech would be excellent — and it was.
Sadly, we won’t be able to hear Santo’s speech, which I’m sure would have been amazingly heart-wrenching and, at times, hilarious.
Some of these committees have gotten elections wrong in the past, in my opinion, of course. Such as when there was a special committee in 2006 to elect African-American players from the Negro League and pre-Negro League eras. The committee elected many deserving people, including the first woman in Hall of Fame history, but they dropped the ball when Buck O’Neil was left off.
O’Neil was still alive and, because of everything he did in the game, was one of the most deserving people on that ballot. Still, he didn’t get in. Though we got to see O’Neil do a short speech at the inductions that year in conjunction with this special election (and it was a fantastic speech), it would have been even better if he was taking his spot where he rightfully belongs. O’Neil died a few months after the induction ceremony.
When thinking of all this, let’s remember that voters in the past had the chance to get this right and didn’t. Numbers haven’t changed. Eras haven’t changed. The player is a Hall of Famer or he isn’t.
Santo is a Hall of Famer.
And though he won’t be here to celebrate this with his family, future generations will see what Ron Santo was as a player.
I’m glad voters finally got this right. I just wish it had been done when Santo could have been around to enjoy it.
Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com. Also, please “Like” HooHaa Blog on Facebook by clicking the button on the right side of the page!