The long-time Cubs third baseman received 57 votes, or 69.5 percent, in the balloting by the Veterans Committee, released Tuesday. He needed 62 votes, or 75 percent, to get in.
"That's a shame," said Billy Williams, who was Santo's teammate on the Cubs and elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987. "I really felt good about his chances."
Santo, who turned 67 on Sunday, had tried to low-key the Hall of Fame, but he's not a low-key guy. He was not available for comment Tuesday, and a Cubs official said Santo was disappointed.
"There's no doubt in my mind -- I'll be honest, I want this badly," he said last week. "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."
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. In the last few years, he has had both legs amputated below the knees because of complications with the disease. That hasn't stopped him. This will be Santo's 18th season in the broadcast booth with WGN Radio.
"Santo was a dominant player at his position for a long, long time," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "An All-Star, Gold Glove winner, and a great ambassador in baseball. It's a shame he fell short."
This is the third time the revamped Veterans Committee has voted, and it has not elected anyone into the Hall of Fame. Santo needed 75 percent, or 62 votes, and fell five short. Jim Kaat was second with 52 votes, Gil Hodges received 50 and Tony Oliva got 47. Santo, Kaat, Hodges and Oliva were the only players named on at least half of the 82 of 84 ballots cast. Santo finished eight votes shy in 2005, tied with Gil Hodges.
"I think they're going to do something," Williams said. "I certainly thought this was the year for Santo and Gil Hodges to go in."
Williams still believes the Veterans Committee format and being elected by one's peers makes sense.
"That's a good system," Williams said. "Many years ago, the players used to vote for who was elected to the All-Star Game and you really felt good about it because your peers voted you in. It's always good to know that they voted you in.
"This is what we have now -- there are players who played with Gil Hodges or against him, and the majority of these people [on the committee] were Santo's peers and played against him," Williams said. "There are guys like Ernie [Banks] and Fergie [Jenkins] and myself, and we saw him play and saw the type of player he was, and that's how we cast our votes. We thought he was a Hall of Fame player."
Santo holds the National League record for third basemen for most consecutive games played (364, April 4, 1964-May 31, 1966), most games played in a season (164 games, 1965) and most seasons leading the league in total chances accepted (nine).
He joined the Cubs on June 24, 1960, and made his Major League debut two days later. It was a good start, as Santo went 3-for-7 and drove in five runs. Funny thing is, he has already been to Cooperstown. On June 27, 1960, the Cubs played the Indians in the annual Hall of Fame game, and Santo homered off Jack Harshman in the Cubs' 5-0 win.
What's keeping him out?
"I'm not sure," Williams said. "I know Santo has rubbed a few people the wrong way, but I hope that's not the case. I would hope everybody has grown and gotten through that."
Williams said this year, members of the Veterans Committee did have more conference calls and discussed the candidates.
"They might look at it again, and revise it again and see if the players and the committee are making a mistake," Williams said. "Nobody has gone in the last six years. If they're going to do that, we don't need one."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.