Year Inducted: 2012 (Veterans Committee)
Who would have ever thought that this day would come? The Chicago Cubs are World Champions. An historic and dramatic Game 7 victory brought the Cubs their first World Series title in 108 years. Within that time, the Cubs have had many Hall of Fame players that either played very little in the postseason, or never played in it at all. From pitchers like Fergie Jenkins to everyday players like Ernie Banks, many never even competing for the postseason. Many players that are linked to the Cubs, even if they didn’t play their entire careers there, became icons for the city and franchise, and the recent victory for the Cubs feels bittersweet when cherished members of the franchise like Banks, Harry Caray and of course Ron Santo aren’t here to see it.
Santo has one of the saddest stories for the Hall of Fame, ever. For 15 years, Santo was one of the top third basemen in the game. He hit .277/.362/.464 with a wRC+ of 126 in Chicago, playing for both the Cubs and White Sox. He collected 365 doubles, 67 triples and 342 homers while driving in over 1300 runs and scoring over 1100. He was a consistent and dominant slugger in the middle of the Cubs lineup for many seasons, and was tremendous defensively as well (worth about 70 defensive runs).
When Santo retired in 1974, Santo ranked 2nd all-time in home runs by a third baseman, fourth in RBI, and third in fWAR (behind Brooks Robinson and Eddie Mathews). Santo had a claim as one of the top-5 all-time third basemen ever when he retired. So, why did the BBWAA so egregiously drop the ball on his candidacy? Like mentioned in previous entries like Bobby Doerr, until recently the writers weren’t willing to compare players to those at their own positions so unless an all-around player like Santo that didn’t put up big milestone numbers wasn’t going to gain recognition. After being on the ballot the full 15 seasons and gaining no more than 43.1% of the vote, he fell off in 1998. After that, his name went to the Veterans Committee. However, this was before the Veterans Committee was reformed, and unless a player had come up just shy from the BBWAA (like Orlando Cepeda), or had performed some incredible feat (like Bill Mazeroski), very few players got through. This meant that Santo, a player who had his career cut short due to complications due to Diabetes, he passed away before the new Veterans Committee voted him into the Hall of Fame.
It was a great shame that he didn’t get in during his lifetime, and even worse that he wasn’t fully recognized for what he was. Ron Santo was one of the top third basemen of all-time, and he is an excellent addition to the Hall of Fame.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 11/6/16:
#89- This recent pitcher is the first pitcher to gain induction following Tommy John Surgery.
#88- This pitcher guided the Indians to their most recent championship.