Chicago Cubs: Ron Santo
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Ron Santo’s wife, Vicki, made an eloquent speech in accepting the iconic Chicago Cubs third baseman’s plaque as he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon.
Santo, who passed away one year before being elected, was honored during a two-hour ceremony that included the induction of Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin.
“It doesn’t matter at all,” she said. “He would have been thrilled to be here and it doesn’t matter how long it took to get here because this was a dream of his.”
She also alluded that the timing of the election was meant to be.
“I think things happen for a reason and his speech would have been about his career, the way it should have been,” she said. “I couldn’t talk about that but I think there was a message in his journey and that’s what I tried to get across to the fans who he loved more than anything. I feel this was for them, the closure that they were all right behind him wishing he could get in and it happened.”
Santo spent a good portion of her speech talking about her husband’s fight with diabetes and the $65 million he had raised for JDRF, a special charity that he had spent years in working with trying to find a cure. Santo played his entire major league career as an insulin-dependent diabetic.
“The whole last decade of Ron’s life was very emotional,” Vicki said. “I loved him, he was my husband and I wanted the best [care] for him. Baseball was his love and it also kept him alive the last 10 years of his life. It is emotional that he was not here but from the situation of his life he was ready [to pass].”
It was estimated that 3,000 Cubs fans made their way to the induction ceremony, which included a five-minute film tribute to Santo covering his career as a player and broadcaster. Long-time friend and Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench put on a Cubs jersey and did a Harry Caray impression while paying tribute to Santo in between acceptance speeches.
The position players left the dugout in unison for the bottom of the first inning and they clicked their heels as they crossed the third-base foul line. Santo was known for celebrating on the field by clicking his heels.
The tribute was the brainchild of manager Dale Sveum and was openly embraced by the players.
Pitcher Travis Wood and catcher Steve Clevenger took the field separate from the other position players. Wood did not click his heels, but Clevenger did as he arrived at the home-plate area.
The Hall of Fame ceremonies were taking place in Cooperstown, N.Y. at the same time the Cubs-Cardinals game was beginning in St. Louis.
Cubs players also wore a Santo tribute patch on their uniforms Sunday. The patch had a large No. 10, as well as “2012” and “HOF” on it. The players will wear the patch one more time on Friday when they return from the road trip. Friday’s game is being dubbed “Ron Santo Day at Wrigley Field.”
“Ronnie was deserving of this a long time ago,” his former teammate Fergie Jenkins said. “The writers missed the essence of his great play because of little national attention.”
Jenkins of course refers to the era in which he and Santo played when people only saw teams from other cities on the game of the week. Santo’s Cubs never made the playoffs and that in itself limited exposure to his great ability.
“You know I would have liked to see him enjoy it because he would have been the happiest man on earth during that time he would have been up there,” Ryne Sandberg said. “To have witnessed that… I know we are all missing out on something special, but to have his family do it is the next best thing.”
Billy Williams was the most aggressive champion of Santo’s Hall of Fame credentials over the past 15 years.
“This is great because we were not only teammates we were great friends,” Williams said. “We came through minor league baseball together and he hit third and I hit fourth. We had Rogers Hornsby [HOF second baseman] as our hitting coach and he told us we would both be outstanding major league hitters. It is great to have him with me, Fergie and Ernie [Banks] as teammates in this great place, all together again.”
Santo said when his number was retired by the Cubs five years ago that was his Hall of Fame.
“He didn’t mean that,” Williams said. “I know he wanted to be here with his teammates. In his heart he did not mean it, so now he can take his rightful place with the rest of us.”
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Ron Santo’s children had a chance to reflect collectively on the upcoming induction of their father into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The fact that the Cubs icon, who will officially become a Hall of Famer during Sunday’s ceremony, did not live long enough to enjoy the honor is still disturbing to the family.
“If he could talk from where he is now, he would probably say to the Veterans Committee that didn’t vote for him, ‘I’m sorry I offended you,’” said Jeff Santo. “I also think he would have said to the rest of the people that did, ‘thank you so much, this is a great game and honor.’”
Santo was extremely close to his three children. Were he alive at the time of receiving the honor, Santo surely would have been thrilled for them and his wife Vickie. Instead, they will accept the honor in his place.
“It is disappointing that he won’t be here to accept for himself, but his legacy to us is the Cubs,” Jeff Santo said. “They were the ones who retired his number and put a statue up long before he got his due here in Cooperstown. His love for the city of Chicago, the Cubs, the fans and the game transcend this great honor. All that and the JDRF work that he did is his legacy. The Hall of Fame is his purple heart.”
Santo, who had the second most RBIs in baseball from 1960-70, was incensed that he had been passed up by many of the same players he competed against during his glory days. Those same players for an eight-year period comprised the electorate for the Veterans Committee vote.
“We said as a family, (forget) this if it happens when he is not around,” Jeff Santo said. “Time goes by and it heals all wounds. We are out here with all Cub fans to enjoy this and honor him, because at the end of the day, he would have wanted us to do that.”
Santo’s daughter Linda was emotionally impacted when I told her of the devastation her father expressed when he found out she had cancer.
“I don’t talk about it because I wanted this weekend to be all about him,” she said. “He knew what it was like to have dark days and he got me through it. To see your child have to go through that, I know how hard it was on him, but he helped me stay positive. He said ‘you are going to make it honey, you are and going to do it.’ I did and he had a lot to do with it, because I am (well), and he and I were looking so forward to getting on track together.”
Santo found out at the same time he received word of Linda’s illness that his bladder cancer had come back. That illness eventually took his life in December 2010.
“I feel like he has helped me get stronger from where he is now,” Linda Santo said. “Even losing him has not taken away from what he taught me and my fighting spirit. He always helped others in need, this time he didn’t have to go so far from home. The good news is before he passed he told me that his faith had been renewed and that my healing was the reason. He said he was content with his life and that he was able to do what he loved -- playing baseball, broadcasting and providing for his family. He said he was OK and that he was grateful for what his life had been and now that is how I feel.”
Ron Santo Jr. spent the most time with his father as a business partner the last year’s of the new Hall of Famer’s life.
“This is not about us as the current descendents, but about Ron Santo’s legacy,” he said. “This is about him taking his rightful place with the greatest players in the history of baseball for of our descendents and Cub fans to honor.”
CHICAGO --Glenn Beckert was in his second season with the Cubs and on a road trip in San Francisco in the spring of 1966, when he woke up a little earlier than usual and discovered his roommate giving himself an injection.
"He was hitting .365 and I was hitting .210," Beckert recalled, "so I said, 'Where are those needles? I'm not going to be here much longer if I don't get my batting average up.'"Read the full story.
Here is a gallery of our Top 50.
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Should Shawon Dunston have been left off?
For a team with so few championships, there is no shortage of Hall of Famers who have donned the Cubs jersey.
He was asked once, on one of the many days a new group of inductees was announced and he wasn’t among them, if he’d be OK getting a spot in Cooperstown, even if it came after he died. And, in that style that endeared him to generations of Cubs fans, he said “I don’t want to go in post-humorously.” Of course, he meant posthumously, but then an E-5 on words was part of what made Ron Santo.
Read the entire story.
And he is a phenomenon, both in life and death.
The Santo Hall of Fame argument was always obscured by discussion over his statistics, both traditional and otherwise. It was and is about more than that, which is why his induction was up there with all the great Hall of Fame debates.
Read the entire column.
For reporters like myself who became friends with Santo over the years before he died last December, Monday was certainly a great day as the legendary Chicago Cubs third baseman was voted into the Hall of Fame.
I always laughed at the arguments against Santo being in the Hall of Fame, and about his credentials.
Growing up in the years Santo was a star, no one ever questioned that he was among the elite players in the game. And that was during baseball's golden era of the 1960s.
Santo was a great defensive player and power hitter long before the steroids era. The captain of those outstanding Cubs teams in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, he played hard on the field and lived life to its fullest off the field.
The hard work he did for Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund and his fundraising showed the real person Santo was, and how deep his commitment was to finding a cure for the disease he battled for most of his life.
Santo's life was all about people and his love and respect for them. I can't tell you how many times people stopped him in my presence and walked away feeling like they had known him for years.
Ron had a special gift, and that was his big heart.
On the other side, he had no filter, which meant if he disagreed with you he'd argue it until he either changed your mind or you walked away.
One time we were discussing the greatest pitcher he had ever faced, Santo said hands down it was Sandy Koufax. I argued that as great as Koufax was, Warren Spahn did it for 25 years and won 363 games. Koufax pitched 10 and won 165.
"You never played, what would you know about it?" Santo said to me. "But let me tell you, nobody could hit Koufax. Not Mays, Aaron or Ernie, when Koufax was on, and he was on most of the time. By far he was the best."
I said, "Ok, then how did you do against Spahn."
"Not too (blanking) good," he said, as we started laughing.
That was the beauty of Ron Santo, funny, honest, always in your face.
I asked him once why he never complained about his health issues. He said, "I live in the here and now, and there are a lot of people who have things a lot worse than I do. Why should I complain?"
Santo's life changed forever in the early 1960s when his mother and stepfather were killed in an automobile accident on their way from Seattle to Mesa, Ariz. to watch Santo in spring training.
"You never get over something like that," he told me in 2010. "Maybe that's why I'm always happy to meet people and to have a nice experience with them. You just can't take this life for granted, or the people in it."
Santo used to listen to me on the radio at times, and when he thought I was full of nonsense, he'd grab me aside and say, "Hey, you really do it know it all don't you? In fact, you may know more than anybody about baseball."
I always got the message when he'd say something like that to me. I became a little more humble every time I was around him.
Wherever you're at Ronnie, this Bud's for you. And tell some of those Hall of Famers up there with you who didn't vorte for you to get in, where to go.
It took 32 years, but former Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday with at least 75 percent of the vote from the Golden Era committee.
Read the entire story.
On the one year anniversary of Ron Santo’s death, his family may have something to feel good about come Monday morning. According to industry sources, Santo’s chances of gaining entry into baseball’s Hall of Fame appear “excellent.”
The Golden Era Committee, a newly founded wing of the Veterans Committee, is voting on 10 different candidates nominated to the ballot. The committee is meeting over the weekend in Dallas to debate the merits then vote on each of the former players.
The Hall of Fame has changed the structure of voting players not elected by the Baseball Writers of America during their 15 years of eligibility into Cooperstown. The new format has 16 voters, including Hall of Fame members Billy Williams, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal, and Brooks Robinson as part of the electorate. The group also features former executives and writers.
A candidate must receive 12 of 16 votes to gain entry.
The Golden Era votes on managers, umpires, executives and players whose most significant career impact occurred between 1947-1972. The committee votes every three years.
“Ronnie has a lot of support this time around,” said a major league source who has been working behind the scenes on Santo’s behalf. “Everything looks good for his election.”
The change in voting procedures can only help Santo and other Golden Era candidates this time around.
From 2003-2007, only living members of the Hall of Fame comprised the Veterans Committee, which was charged with voting on the eligibility of candidates who weren’t elected by the baseball writers. Three votes were taken during that time (2003, 2005 and 2007) without any candidate getting elected.
Frustrated with the process, the Hall changed the procedure of voting after its 2007 vote.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has been among the most vocal candidates of Santo’s candidacy, campaigning rigorously to get the team’s iconic third baseman into Cooperstown.
“They meet this weekend,” Ricketts said on ESPN 1000’s “Talkin’ Baseball” on Saturday. “We’ve created a lot of information and sent it out to everyone [on the committee]. Billy Williams is on the committee. He’s been focused on making everyone aware of Ron’s situation. It was one year ago today that Ron passed away. We hope they will really focus hard on Ron this time around.”
During his 15 years of initial eligibility through the Baseball Writers of America, Santo’s highest vote total was 43.1 percent in 1998. A candidate needs 75 percent of votes to gain entry. In 2007 under the previous Veterans Committee setup, Santo received 39 votes from the 64-member panel (61 percent) again falling short of the 75 percent needed. His non-qualifying total in 2007 was the highest of any candidate voted on by the committee.
Santo’s career spanned from 1960-74. He spent all but his final season with the Cubs. Santo hit 342 home runs, batting .277 with 1,331 RBIs. Santo was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner.
After finishing his baseball career, Santo went into the private business for 16 years. In 1990, Santo became the Cubs radio color commentator. He held that position for 21 years until his death last year.
This will be the first time since 2002 that a committee will decide on the fates of players such as Santo. Over the past nine years, living Hall of Famers have voted on whether these former players and executives would go into the Hall. The Hall of Fame changed its way of voting after the 2009 vote.
Nominees who receive 12 or more votes (75 percent or more) will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. The inductees will be announced on Dec. 5 at the winter meetings in Dallas.
Santo and the other candidates, which include former White Sox great Minnie Minoso, will be voted on by a 16-man committee which includes former players, managers, executives and veteran baseball writers who have been longtime participants in their area of the game.
Former White Sox general manager Roland Hemond, Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Williams and Chicago writer Dave van Dyck are on the 16-man committee.
The Golden Era candidates are voted on every three years. The cycle includes the Pre-Integration Era (1871-1946), the Golden Era and the Expansion Era (1973-present). Santo was snubbed on the previous veterans committee elections that was voted on by the players.
A nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glover, Santo passed away in 2010 at age 70. He became an iconic figure as the Cubs' color commentator on WGN Radio from 1990-2010.
Santo’s family, including his wife, Vicki, his sons, Jeff and Ron Jr., and his daughter, Linda, were all in attendance at Wednesday’s unveiling, and Jeff Santo spoke to the crowd about his father’s zest for life.
The statue lists many of Santo’s accomplishments on the field and in the broadcast booth, but more importantly it tells of his humanitarian needs, including his commitment to JDRF, for which he personally helped raise $60 million during his lifetime.
“Ron was a lucky guy,” Vicki Santo said. “I don’t know an organization that has honored a player more than the Chicago Cubs have honored Ron. To Ron, the Chicago Cubs was his family. So much so, that he never worried when he went in to negotiate a contract. He said, ‘Vicki, they are my family and they will do what’s right for me.’ “
Santo’s former teammates in attendance included Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins. All three gave speeches about Santo as a teammate and a person. Former catcher Randy Hundley and second baseman Glenn Beckert, Santo’s best friend and one-time roommate, helped unveil the statue.
“When I hit my 500th home run, Ronnie got the hit to win the game,” said Banks, whose statue sits at Addison and Clark. “Ron was such a clutch player, so determined. His spirit lingers with this organization. He is my Hall of Fame and he belongs in THE Hall of Fame.”
Present Cubs who attended the ceremony included manager Mike Quade, Kerry Wood, Ryan Dempster, Reed Johnson, James Russell and Sean Marshall, as well as members of the coaching and training staff.
Broadcasters Pat Hughes and Len Kasper were co-masters of ceremony for the event. Although Santo died in December of 2010, Vicki Santo said he knew about the statue before he died.
“In 2010, Crane Kenney called and told Ron, ‘We’re putting up a statue of Billy in front of Wrigley Field, and the following summer [Santo’s] statue would go up. He did know about the statue and he was so excited. He said to me, ‘Do you know what a big deal that is. I can’t believe they would do that for me.’”
Santo’s grandson, Sam Brown, threw out the first pitch before the Cubs’ game against the Nationals. Santo’s favorite player and close friend Kerry Wood was the catcher.