Posts Tagged ‘Ron Santo’

Santo Finally Makes It

December 6, 2011

Ron Santo Takes a Whack

Ron Santo and Billy Williams both played for the 1960 Houston Buffs before going on to careers as teammates with the Chicago Cubs as their teams’ defenders of the left field line at third base and left field. Now the guys are together again – in the Baseball Hall of Fame. All I wish to say is that I’m glad it finally happened and, like many others of you, I only wish it could have happened earlier than December 3, 2010, the date that the wonderful Ron Santo left this planet. Posthumous awards always ring the bell  a little too loudly on the empty side, as in “better now than never, but earlier would have been better, when Ron Santo was still here among the living to share and enjoy it with family and friends.”

Ron Santo had a wonderful power stroke on offense and the kind of rocket arm on defense that defines the rare greats of third base history. Only fourteen others have received the call to the Hall as “hot corner” specialists prior to Santo, and three of those men played exclusively in the Negro Leagues, where statistical data was often poorly kept and not well documented – and  the game itself was played under the frequently far more adverse conditions of many ragged fields and unevenly officiated games. Santo has deserved his place in this rarefied company forever and I am grateful that the Veterans Committee finally made it happen on December 5, 2011.

Over the course of his fifteen season MLB career (1960-1974), Ron Santo batted .277 with 342 home runs, and 1,331 runs batted in. He played in nine all star games and won five gold gloves over the course of his career. Ron Santo had to battle the ravages of diabetes in the latter years of his life, but he hung in there, even under the loss of both legs to the disease, doing good, positive color reporting as an analyst on the Cubs’ radio game broadcasting team.

Love live the soul and spirit of Ron Santo. It bears upon its back the larger hope for an eventual Chicago Cubs redemption – and that’s no light load for any soul to carry.

Ron Santo for the Hall of Fame!

December 8, 2010

Ron Santo Deserves Hall of Fame Induction.

Back in 1960, when the Houston Buffs were playing out their minor league days as a farm club of the Chicago Cubs, a couple of future Hall of Fame quality players passed through here as the team’s left fielder and third baseman,. Their names were Billy Williams and Ron Santo, but only one of them would go on to receive the Hall of Fame induction that both deserved. That one, as you well know, was Billy Williams, who went into the Hall in 1987 after an 18-season career in the big league (1959-1976) in which he batted .290 and collected 426 home runs as a left fielder and first baseman. Williams did not become eligible for consideration until 1982 and then made it in with enough support on the sixth annual ballot in which his name appeared.

In the meanwhile, that other former Buff, third baseman Ron Santo, has been shut out from the honor continuously ever since his own retirement from a 15-season big league career (1960-1974) as a .276 hitter who also bashed 342 home runs in his career. As a fielder, few have ranked with Mr. Santo at third base. As a five-times Gold Glove winner and a nine-times All Star, organized baseball did about all they could do to honor an active player for his prowess on the field. Then he retired and the voters apparently could not see beyond their addictions to the ideas that a player, especially a corner infielder, should have either a near .300 batting average or pulverizing power stats to merit Hall of Fame consideration.

Bunk. Ron Santo handled third base like few before or after him, and that’s especially important when we are talking about the difficult third base spot and its unique requirements for players with rabbit-like foot speed, cat-like reflexes, eagle-like vision, and bear-like arm strength. Throw in the exceptional agility of a ballet dancer with those first-mentioned qualities and you had a third baseman named Ron Santo.The blindness of the voters simply would not let them see in his lifetime beyond that .276 batting average. After all these years of wonderment over his HOF denial, that’s all I can figure.

Now Ron Santo is dead. After years of courageous battle against diabetes and the loss of both legs, we lost the man last week. He died on Thursday, December 2, 2010, at the age of 70.

Whenever it happens, Ron Santo’s posthumous induction into the Hall of Fame will ring a lot more hollow now that’s he’s gone. These kinds of recognition always do when we make some deserving person wait until they die before we honor them properly for what they did in life, but that that’s the way the world seems to operate in many instances and Ron Santo is definitely one of those cases.

C’mon, Baseball, put Ron Santo in the Hall of Fame now. “Better late than never” still holds – and it’s all we’ve got to lean on now in the matter of unfinished business with the late Ron Santo.