Santo waits, hopes it's his turn for Hall

Santo again up for Cooperstown enshrinement

When the Chicago Cubs retired Ron Santo's No. 10 in ceremonies at Wrigley Field in September 2003, the legendary third baseman told the cheering crowd, "This is my Hall of Fame."

He still has a chance to gain entry into Cooperstown.

Santo is making his third appearance on the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot. In the 2005 Veterans election, he finished tied with Gil Hodges, both receiving the highest vote total, 52 votes (65 percent). A candidate must get 75 percent of the vote to gain election. In 15 years on the Baseball Writers' ballot, Santo's highest vote total percentage was 53 percent in 1984. Results of the 2007 Veterans Committee election will be announced Feb. 27, and the induction ceremony will take place July 29 in Cooperstown.

Santo spent all but one year of his 15-year career with the Cubs (1960-74). A nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, he ranks in the top three in most hitting categories for third basemen between 1950-75. His 342 home runs ranks fourth all-time for third basemen. He had eight 90-plus RBI seasons, and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times.

Santo holds or shares many defensive records for third basemen, including most consecutive games at third in the National League (364); most years leading the NL in putouts (seven); most years leading the NL in assists (seven straight); most years leading either league in chances (nine); and most years leading either league in double plays (six).

He was the first third baseman to hit more than 300 home runs and win five Gold Gloves, a feat since matched by only Mike Schmidt.

Santo is one of 27 former Major League players on the 2007 Veterans Committee ballot. If Santo's fans think he's been slighted, read this comment from Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus:

"The omission of Ron Santo is the most egregious mistake ever made by the Baseball Writers' Association of America," Sheehan wrote in a column for ESPN.com. "They should have inducted Santo 20 years ago, and that they overlooked him throughout his 15 years on the ballot is a shame. I sincerely hope that the new Veterans Committee rights the error quickly. It will be a boon to their credibility and an honor for a man too long left outside the hallowed halls of Cooperstown."

Santo hit .277 in his career with 342 home runs and 1,331 RBIs. He didn't reach 400 homers or 3,000 hits (he totaled 2,254 in his career), but Santo was one of the top third basemen in his era.

There are only 10 third basemen in Cooperstown, including George Brett, George Kell, Eddie Matthews, Brooks Robinson and Schmidt.

2007 Hall of Fame Inductions
  2007 Candidates  
The 2007 Veterans Committee ballot features 27 candidates on the player ballot, 15 on the composite ballot.
Players ballot
Dick Allen
Bobby Bonds
Ken Boyer
Rocky Colavito
Wes Ferrell
Curt Flood
Joe Gordon
Gil Hodges
Jim Kaat
Mickey Lolich
Sparky Lyle
Marty Marion
Roger Maris
Carl Mays
Minnie Minoso
Thurman Munson
Don Newcombe
Lefty O'Doul
Tony Oliva
Al Oliver
Vada Pinson
Ron Santo
Luis Tiant
Joe Torre
Cecil Travis
Mickey Vernon
Maury Wills
 
Composite ballot
Buzzie Bavasi
August Busch Jr.
Harry Dalton
Charlie Finley
Doug Harvey
Whitey Herzog
Bowie Kuhn
Billy Martin
Marvin Miller
Walter O'Malley
Gabe Paul
Paul Richards
Bill White
Dick Williams
Phil Wrigley
Santo made it clear two years ago that he didn't want his battle with diabetes to generate any sympathy votes. He has had both legs amputated because of complications with the disease. Think that would stop him? Hardly. One of the most resilient and upbeat people you'd ever meet, Santo is inspiring. He is on the board of directors of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and his yearly walk-a-thon has raised more than $50 million.

His story prompted a teacher, Bill Holden, to walk from Arizona to Chicago to raise money for JDF.

Santo hid his diabetes from baseball until Aug. 28, 1971, on "Ron Santo Day" at Wrigley Field, when he revealed he had battled with it since the age of 18. Some fans recall seeing Santo eating candy bars in the dugout before games. It was the only way he could keep his energy level up.

His son, Jeff, put together the documentary "This Old Cub," which details Santo's career and his battle with diabetes. The film, which was released in 2003, when the first Veterans Committee vote was conducted, included snippets from Hall of Famers saying how much Santo belonged in Cooperstown. The media invaded Santo's Phoenix-area home on the day of the announcement.

But the Veterans Committee did not elect anyone in 2003. They also did not elect anyone in 2005.

Santo, who turns 67 in February, lives and breathes the Cubs during the season as the color analyst for WGN Radio. He spends his offseason in Arizona with wife, Vicki, riding horses and doing his exercises. He's learned to keep things low-key on the day the results are announced.

"Two years ago, I got so high," Santo said in 2005. "I'll keep it low-key. I got too high [in 2003] and it was a big letdown, and I realized that I had no control over it. If it happens, I'll be delighted, and if it doesn't happen, the sad part is I've got to wait two more years."

In October 2006, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) sent a letter to the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee and urged them to vote for Santo.

"We can't know how much better Ron Santo's statistics might have been had he not played his entire career with a life-threatening illness in an era that suppressed the long ball for a team that, God bless them, never once saw postseason action," Durbin said in his letter.

Santo stays close to his beloved Cubs as the color commentator on WGN Radio broadcasts. He cheers and groans right along with Cubs fans, and has a great sense of humor. He loves to retell the story about when his hairpiece caught on fire during the national anthem in the Shea Stadium press box. Fans can relate to Santo because of his passion for the team, which he doesn't hide.

"As extraordinary as his life has been, the [last] two chapters for his story are for him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player and for his beloved Cubs to win the World Series," said Pat Hughes, Santo's radio partner. "That would make his life complete."

The Veterans Committee electorate is comprised of living Hall of Fame members, Ford C. Frick Award recipients, J.G. Taylor Spink Award recipients and former Veterans Committee members whose terms have not yet expired. Santo will wait and see.

"Hopefully, I'm pleasantly surprised," Santo said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.