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Santo eagerly awaits Veterans' vote

Santo eager for Vets' vote

MESA, Ariz. -- He may try to low key the Feb. 27 Veterans Committee announcement, but Ron Santo isn't a low-key kind of guy.

Santo, the former third baseman for the Cubs and current WGN Radio broadcaster, will find out next week if he will get the call for Cooperstown. That's when the committee releases its results.

"Let's face it, I'm keeping a low profile," Santo said. "But there's no doubt in my mind -- I'll be honest, I want this badly. Mainly because it's every two years. Two years, because of what I have with the diabetes and being older, is like an eternity. If I do get in, I'd like to enjoy it."

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Santo was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 18 but didn't reveal that he had Type 1 diabetes until the Cubs celebrated "Ron Santo Day" on Aug. 28, 1971. He played for the team from 1960-73, spent one season with the crosstown White Sox, and then retired. A career .277 hitter, he won five Gold Gloves and was a nine-time All-Star.

This is the third time the revamped Veterans Committee will release its vote. The group, which consists of all Hall of Fame players, has yet to elect anyone into Cooperstown since its formation.

Santo finished eight votes shy in 2005, tied with Gil Hodges. He likes the current Veterans Committee format, but wouldn't mind having them vote every year rather than every two years.

"Ronny had just a marvelous career," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Yeah, he should be in the Hall of Fame. He's very popular, very loyal and very productive. I'm sure he would be a great addition to the Hall of Fame.

"People who have had really, really solid, good careers and have been dominant players at their positions should get in," Piniella said.

Santo agrees.

"The way I feel, to be honest, there are a lot of guys who deserve to be in because of the type of player they were," Santo said. "You've got to have the numbers, don't get me wrong, but you have to look at consistency, you have to look at both sides -- defense, offense. Was he an impact player? That's what I look at."

Among the players on Santo's list who have yet to gain entry but should be in the Hall of Fame are former Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson and pitchers Jim Kaat, Bert Blyleven and Tommy John.

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"A good example of an impact player is Don Drysdale, 212 wins," Santo said. "You ask any right-handed hitter who faced him in my day -- Willie Mays, Henry Aaron -- anybody will tell you this guy was an impact pitcher. When he went to the mound, you didn't know what was going on there. It isn't how many wins, but it's impact. That's how I look at it."

Santo doesn't want any sympathy votes because of his battle with diabetes.

"During my career, it was not as easy as people realize, and yet I put up big numbers," he said. "I had a disability and still put up big numbers. I couldn't predict what I could've done if I wasn't a diabetic. To me, baseball was a gift to me. It was easy, I loved it. I just wonder, would I have played longer? Absolutely. There were a lot of times when my sugar was low."

He didn't have any way to register his blood sugar levels, but if he felt low, he'd eat candy. He told the Cubs he had diabetes after he made his first All-Star team, but asked the team not to reveal it.

"The first thing I read [about side effects of diabetes] was the life expectancy of a juvenile with Type 1 was 25 years," he said. "Then, No. 1 blindness, kidney failure, hardening of the arteries, gangrene."

Santo, active in raising funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, will celebrate his 67th birthday on Feb. 25, two days before the announcement.

"I've been in remission for 12 years," he said. "I've had no kidney problems, which is wonderful. Circulation, I lost both my legs. I had gangrene in my right foot at the time. Hardening of arteries -- I had open-heart surgery. That all came later, and came at the right time."

Meaning, it didn't interfere with his playing days.

This winter, Santo was hospitalized briefly because of pneumonia. He doesn't plan on missing any road trips with the Cubs, except for the two-city Washington-Pittsburgh trip in July. It's tough for him to get around RFK Stadium. The Cubs have retired his No. 10.

What are his plans for Feb. 27? He'll be at his Arizona home, waiting for the call.

"All I know is I want it very badly this year," he said. "That's how I feel. I'm being honest."

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

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