For Santo, the Hall may finally call
Billy Williams likes to go to Cooperstown early, a few days before the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. On the Friday of the last week in July, he likes to walk through the town in the quiet of the early morning. He looks through the windows of the shops to see the vendors setting up their memorabilia.
"You always go back to when you started playing the game," he said by phone Thursday, "and it's a great feeling."
His Friday walk next summer could be particularly moving for him, because Williams -- a member of the committee which will vote on Hall of Fame candidates from the Golden Era -- believes that his longtime friend and former teammate Ron Santo will be enshrined. "I am really feeling good about it," said Williams, noting the progression of Santo's voting, that he's gotten closer and closer each time. "I've heard in the wind that a lot of people believe he really should be in there."
When Williams is transported emotionally back to when he started playing the game, that means going back to when he and Santo first played together in the minors in 1959. They hit back-to-back in the lineup, both working under the tutelage of Rogers Hornsby, and developed a friendship that deepened through their time together.
Williams knows how much a Hall of Fame induction meant to Santo, because he saw how brokenhearted his friend was after a near-miss in the voting of the Veterans Committee a few years back. After Santo passed away last year, Williams felt sadness because Santo would never be able to experience his election into the Hall.
"When the flag was raised here in Chicago for him, he said, 'This is my Hall of Fame,'" Williams said. "But he wanted to be [in Cooperstown]. He wanted to be up there with Ernie [Banks], myself, Fergie [Jenkins], guys that he played with."
Williams is cognizant, though, of what Santo's induction would mean to his family. Going to Cooperstown next summer may well be about sharing that experience with them, as well as thinking of his friend as he walks along Main Street in the little town in upstate New York.
Ron Santo's career
Number of seasons he led NL in walks: 4
All-Star Games: 9
Gold Gloves: 5
Top 10 finish in the MVP voting: 4
Number of seasons ranked in top 10 in his league in WAR: 4, including 1967, when he ranked first, at 10.2.
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