Santo should've got Hall nod years ago: Jenkins

Ferguson Jenkins says former Cubs teammate Ron Santo's Hall of Fame induction is long overdue. (QMI...

Ferguson Jenkins says former Cubs teammate Ron Santo's Hall of Fame induction is long overdue. (QMI Agency file photo)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:48 AM ET

TORONTO - Fergie Jenkins has seen Vicki Santo twice since her late husband Ron was elected to the Hall of Fame.

They met at the 27th annual Cubs Fest at the Hilton in Chicago on the second weekend of January and last month at the Bricks and Ivy Ball at Navy Pier as $1.25 million U.S. was raised for Cubs charities.

“Vicki’s pretty happy, but Ron being elected came about 10 years too late,” Jenkins said.

“Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and I all thought so. Guys that know Ron know he should have been elected earlier. It’s too bad he can’t have the opportunity to be there.”

Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin and Vicki Santo will speak to the crowd on July 22 in Cooperstown representing the class of 2012.

The Golden Era Committee elected Santo at the winter meetings in Dallas, two days after the first anniversary of Santo’s death Dec. 3, 2010.

So will the weekend be bittersweet for Vicki Santo and children Ron, Jr., Jeff and daughter Linda.

“Oh, it will be a celebration,” said Jenkins, “there will be so many Cubs fans there happy for Ron, the front office and Ryne Sandberg, too.”

Cubs fans will be paying tribute to Santo’s legacy: 14 years playing at Wrigley and 21 seasons broadcasting, taking every loss as hard as the guy in the bleachers.

And no doubt Williams, Banks and Jenkins will talk about 1969, a race the Cubs led until Sept. 9, when the New York Mets overtook them.

“Ron was threatened by Mets fans, who told him not to come to the park, or he’d be shot,” Jenkins said.

“So, Phil Regan, one of our relievers, puts on a trench count with the collar up, a hat and sunglasses. Phil knocks on the door. Ron looks through the peep hole and didn’t know what to think.

“We all thought it was funny. The club reprimanded Phil.”

Santo was on the Baseball Writers of American ballot for 15 years and the closest he ever came to the required 75% was 43.1% in 1998.

Four times the Hall of Famers had a crack at electing Santo and he fell short: 56.8% in 2003; 65% in 2005, 69.5% in 2007 and 60.9 in 2008.

“The first two years Gil Hodges had the most votes, Ron was third one year, second the other,” said Jenkins.

“The next two votes, Ron had the highest percentage, but was still short.

“None of us really understood why we couldn’t get Ron elected. It’s what people think when it comes time to vote, you can’t go against what people think.”

Santo nearly ran the table when the 16-man Golden Era committee filled out its ballots, collecting 15 votes.

The committee consisted of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Pat Gillick, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson and Billy Williams; executives Paul Beeston (Blue Jays), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals), Roland Hemond (Diamondbacks), Gene Michael (Yankees) and Al Rosen (retired); and veteran writers Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell and Dave Van Dyck.

Jenkins was in Ontario the previous 10 days with his first stop being the Oakridge Presbyterian Church in London.

“The church contacted MLB Alumni to ask if I’d speak about my mother and my faith,” said Jenkins, who grew up going to a baptist church in Chatham.

He attended Tuesday’s Texas Rangers-Jays game with daughter Kimberly and her pals from the First Ontario Credit Union at the Rogers Centre getting tickets from the Rangers.

“Brett Lawrie hit the ball off the top of the fence to win it,” Jenkins said.

“There were three good games. Toronto is making a move. The division might not be so tough with injuries in New York and Boston struggling.”

Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, Tim Raines and Jenkins did a card show on the weekend, attended the Toronto Maple Leafs dinner and threw out the first ceremonial first pitch before the Intercounty Baseball League opener.

A winner of 284 games Jenkins wasn’t inducted until 1991, his third year on the ballot. He was inducted with Rod Carew and Gaylord Perry.

“Gaylord and I both had more wins than Jim Palmer (inducted the year before), everyone has to wait their turn,” Jenkins said. “Our weekend we had a 300-game winner (Perry), a batting champ (Carew) and a Cy Young award winner (Jenkins), all from different countries. Gaylord is from the States, Rod is from Panama and I’m Canadian, of course.”

Jenkins remembers the Canadian anthem being sung and flags from all three countries “flying all over the place.”

“It’s a pretty significant weekend, a life-changing experience,” Jenkins said.

“So many good things happen after you are inducted, people probably think you were a better player than you actually were. When you sign a ball and put ‘HOF’ behind it, it the icing on the cake.”

Sadly, it’s an icing Santo won’t enjoy.


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