Hall of Fame gets it right, inducts Santo

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella is interviewed by broadcaster and former Cubs third baseman Ron...

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella is interviewed by broadcaster and former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo in Scottsdale, Arizona in this February 28, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Jeff Topping/Files)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:18 PM ET

DALLAS - Hall of famer Brooks Robinson and New York Yankees executive Gene Michael were talking after Sunday’s four-hour, closed-door meeting.

“Gene said ‘I looked at Ron Santo’s numbers, looked your numbers ... how the heck did you ever get in?”

Asked about the quip later Michael said “no, no Brooks said that about himself, I’d never say that.”

Whatever, it was committee humour.

Santo was the sole player on the golden era ballot elected to the Hall of Fame Monday at the 110th Major League Baseball winter meetings.

Robinson and Michael, along with Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and Hall of Fame general manager Pat Gillick were on the committee which named Santo on 15 of 16 ballots.

Santo’s bronze plaque will be unveiled in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 22.

“It’s a shame he wasn’t alive to enjoy it, I was elected 11 years ago, you become a different person when you’re elected to the Hall of Fame,” said former Los Angles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. “The day I got the call from Ted Williams I started crying, Ted said ‘all these years I thought I was the only one who loved you.’”

Santo, 70, who died a year and two days before his election from complications of bladder cancer, was the only player elected. Former Minnesota Twins lefty Jim Kaat had 10 votes, finishing two shy of the required 12. Long time Brooklyn Dodger Gil Hodges and former Chicago White Sox outfielder Minnie Minoso each had nine, while ex-Minnesota Twins outfielder Tony Oliva had eight.

The news will be welcomed in and outside of the friendly confines of Wrigley Field where Santo was an all-star at third and an icon as a broadcaster.

Yet the largest amount of support Santo received in 15 years from the Baseball Writers of America Association was 43.1%, when 75% is required. Santo was bypassed during three times when hall of famers voted for veterans in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008.

“This is the fairest process we’ve had,” Robinson said. “I know that he’s as good as anyone who’s ever played over there.”

Third base is a neglected position in the Hall. Santo is only the 11th elected joining Wade Boggs (2005), George Brett (1999), Mike Schmidt (1995), George Kell (1983), Eddie Mathews (1978) Freddie Lindstrom (1976), Home Run Baker (1955), Pie Traynor (1948), Jimmy Collins (1945) and Robinson (1983).

A nine-time all-star and five-time Gold Glove winner Santo retired with a .277 career average, 2,254 hits, 342 home runs and 1,331 RBIs.

“It’s really exciting, so many years that we had parties at his house during spring training where I’d say ‘this is the year, this is the year you’re going in the Hall of Fame,” said Williams, a member of the committee.

Canada’s national treasure Fergie Jenkins of Chatham, Ont., lobbied for Santo when Jenkins attended his museum in St. Catharines last month. Santo joins teammates Ernie Banks, Jenkins and Williams in Cooperstown.

“With Ernie, myself and Fergie, those players he played with ... to hear the news that Ron is inducted is gratifying because so many times that we talked about it, it’s a place he wanted to be,” Williams said. “I’m really, really thrilled for him and his family. The one sad thing, of course, is he’s not here to enjoy it, but his family will.”

Santo ranked behind only hall of famer and Milwaukee Braves slugger Mathews, my favourite player as a youngster, among third basemen.

Ken Boyer, Allie Reynolds and Luis Tiant, plus GMs Buzzie Bavasi and Charlie Finley were also on the ballot, and received under three votes.

“This is a tough fraternity,” Lasorda said. “We had 10 qualified people on the ballot, the writers didn’t vote for them. We discussed them all. Why didn’t they get in? They didn’t get enough votes.

“We’re not like the NFL or NBA, we don’t put in nine or 10 guys each year.”


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