BY MICHELLE MILLER
While some former majorleaguers will be left in suspense until January wondering if they will be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, family and fans of Ron Santo will no longer have to wait.
Santo, a nine-time All-Star who had 342 home runs and five Gold Glove awards, earned election into the Cooperstown shrine by the Golden Era Committee. The announcement came Monday morning during the baseball winter meetings held in Dallas.
The former Cubs third baseman, who also played a year for the White Sox, will never know about his enshrinement however; he died from complications of diabetes and cancer last December at the ageof 70.
His widow, Vicki, said from her home in Arizona during a conference call Monday that although her husband was not there with her to share the thrill of his election she knew it would be such an honor for him. “It was always so important to Ron and it has been a longtime coming,” she said.
Vicki said she anticipates giving a speech onbehalf of her husband at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on July 22 at the Clark Sports Center. She said it will most likely reflect on not ever giving up.
“It was always his dream and to have it happen even after his passing shows you can’t give up and that is what Ron was all about,” she said.
All but one of the 16 members on the Golden Era Committee, which considered eight former players and two executives whose contributions were most significant from 1947-72, voted for Santo. Candidates needed to earn 75 percent to earn election, or 12 votes. Jim Kaat came the next closest, garnering 10 votes. Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso each finished with nine votes and Tony Oliva had eight. Buzzie Bavasi, Ken Boyer, Charlie Finley, Allie Reynolds and Luis Tiant each received fewer than three votes.
Vicki said she was brought to tears when Santo’s former teammate Billy Williams called her with the announcement. Williams was a member of the committee that elected Santo.“I was so emotional,” she said.
“I can see him sitting here on the couch, like we have done so many times, pumping his fists in the air saying, ‘Yes! Yes!’ with the same enthusiasm he had as a player. He would have been so appreciative and thrilled.”
Perhaps his best season came in 1969, when Santo hit .289 with 29 home runs and a career-high 123 RBIs. The Cubs led the National League’s East Division for most of the 1969 season before being overtaken by a New York Mets squad managed by former Brooklyn Dodgers standout Hodges.
That season, Santo was on deck during a key Sept. 9 game against the Mets at Shea Stadium. There, a black cat ran around Santo before disappearing under stands and the Cubs soon faded from postseason contention. The Mets went on to win the World Series, beating the Baltimore Orioles in five games.
Santo will become the 12th major league third baseman to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and the first since Wade Boggs in 2005. Including three selections from the Negro leagues, Santo will be among 15 third basemen in the Hall. Santo, also a television announcer for the Cubs, will be joined in the Hall of Fame Class of 2012 by any electees who emerge from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting, which will be announced Jan. 9.
Santo’s highest vote total from BBWAA was 43.1 percent in 1998, his last year on the ballot. Like fellow teammates Williams, Ferguson Jenkins and Ernie Banks all enshrined in the Hall of Fame he never played in a postseason game for the Cubs. Vicki said she and her family feel like Santo’s election was meant to be.
“I had a gut feeling this would happen for him,” she said. Vicki said Santo said he told her he had hoped to get in during his lifetime.
Unfortunately that was not meant to be, she said.
“I do find it ironic that the vote happened just a year after his death and that he was the only one selected,” Vickisaid. “I’m a believer in what is meant to be.
This is going to continue his legacy of who he was, what he meant with baseball and his friends.”
He was obviously disappointed about not having gotten in during his lifetime, but when his No. 10 was retired at Wrigley Field he said that was his Hall of Fame, according to Vicki.
The 16-member Golden Era Committee was composed of Hall of Fame members Hank Aaron, Pat Gillick, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson and Billy Williams; major league executives Paul Beeston (Blue Jays), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals), Roland Hemond (Diamondbacks), Gene Michael (Yankees) and Al Rosen (retired); and veteran media members Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell and Dave Van Dyck.
Hall of Fame Chairwoman of the Board Jane Forbes Clark served as the non-voting chairman of the Golden Era Committee.
The Golden Era Committee will next consider candidates in 2014 for the 2015 Induction year, as the process to consider candidates by era repeats on a three-year cycle. In 2012, the Pre-Integration Era Committee will meet for the first time to consider managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players whose most impactful contributions came before 1947. In 2013, the Expansion Era Committee, which met previously in 2010, will consider candidates whose main career contributions came from 1973 through the present. Committees will continue to meet at the Winter Meetings.