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Ron Santo FINALLY makes the Baseball Hall of Fame
Ron Santo is a Hall of Famer as of Monday, December 5, 2011. He always was, but the goofballs at the Baseball Hall of Fame wouldn't put him in until now. It just came one year too late.
Santo is one of the 10 best third basemen in the history of the game, playing the first 14 years of his career with the Chicago Cubs, plus one additional season with the cross-town Chicago White Sox. He was a 9-time All-Star and 4-time Gold Glover who was one of the most popular players in Cubs' history. He hit 342 home runs, knocked in 1338 runs, and was an outstanding defensive player as well.
But Santo, while popular with fans, had his detractors amongst other players. Tom Seaver wrote in his first book that he thought Santo was bush league for clicking his heels after each Cubs' win. Some of his teammates had problems with him as well, as Leo Durocher wrote in his book "Nice Guys Finish Last". Ron was an excitable type, and it didn't always translate well.
He also played most his career with a secret. He suffered from diabetes. In the 1960's, we didn't know as much about the disease as we do today. Now, diabetes is not that big a deal, but back then, it was something to be guarded about, especially for an athlete.
Santo kept his condition hidden for most of his career because he didn't want to use it as an excuse if he played poorly. While this is admirable, I wonder why he didn't come out prior to 1971 and admit it. He would've been a great role model to diabetics everywhere, but I guess he felt it was his business, and that was something he was dealing with on his own.
He became a Cubs' announcer, and got plenty of criticism for being too much of a "homer", but he was a staple for many years in the broadcast booth. The Cubs' fans didn't really care if he was goofing up the broadcasts. They loved him anyway.
His health deteriorated seriously in his later years, having both of his legs amputated due to complications from diabetes. He also had bladder cancer, which ended up taking his life in December of 2010.
What kept him going was the thought that he would be able to gain induction to the Hall of Fame. Year after year, his name would be on the Veterans' Committee ballot, and year after year it would be shot down, and poor Ronnie would gamely wait for his next chance.
The reason he didn't make it in his lifetime is a procedural one. In his book "Cooperstown Confidential", Zev Chafets showed that the newest version of the Committee consists of every Hall of Fame inductee. And if a new living member was inducted, that player would cut into the endorsement deals of current Hall of Famers. So, aside of the wholesale induction of all the Negro Leaguers in 2006, all of whom were dead upon induction, Bill Mazeroski was the last Veterans' Committee pick, in 2001. And that pick was blasted by many members of the Hall of Fame, so they just stopped picking people. And Santo, because of these boneheaded policies, was denied induction until he passed on.
Fair or not, Santo was denied his right to accept his Hall of Fame induction and make his speech because of greed and stupidity. It's a damned shame he wasn't inducted while he was alive. But at least he's in there, and his family will be happy.