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Ronald Edward Santo

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2012

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[edit] Biographical Information

"To me it is clear and unequivocal that Santo is a Hall of Famer." - baseball writer and analyst Bill James

Ron Santo was one of baseball's top third basemen of the 1960s, hitting 342 home runs and winning five Gold Glove Awards during his career. A slugger in his own right, he belted 20 or more homers eleven times during his fifteen-year major league career. His entire career was spent in Chicago, IL, as he played 14 years for the Chicago Cubs and his final season for the Chicago White Sox.

After graduating from Franklin High School, Santo was scouted by several teams but ended up signing with the Cubs for $20,000. In his first pro season at age 19 in 1959, he hit .327 with 35 doubles and 11 homers for the San Antonio Missions of the Texas League but struggled in the field, making 53 errors. The next season, 1960, he spent 71 games with the Houston Buffs of the American Association, hitting .268 with 16 doubles and 7 home runs before coming up to the majors.

Coming up at age 20 in 1960, Santo established himself in a few years as a hitter with good power, a high average, lots of walks, and a slick glove. Although his numbers may not look as impressive at first glance as those of current players, it must be remembered that the 1960s and early 1970s were a second dead ball era when on-base percentages and slugging averages were lower than those of today. His lifetime .362 on-base percentage and .464 slugging average were excellent for those days, as his 125 OPS+ attests. On May 28 and May 29, 1966, Santo hit extra-inning, game-ending, game-winning home runs for Chicago; no National Leaguer would perform that feat for 45 years, when Albert Pujols did so.

After the 1973 season, he became one of the first players to refuse a trade under the newly adopted "10 and 5" rule, allowing a player with ten years of experience, including the last five with his current club, to veto a potential trade. He would have been headed to the California Angels, but refused to move to the West coast. The Cubs then sent him across town to the White Sox in return for four players (Ken Frailing, Jim Kremmel, Steve Stone and Steve Swisher). The White Sox already had Bill Melton to play third base though, so Santo spent the 1974 season moving between third and second base and also acting as the team's DH. He hit only .221 with 5 homers in 117 games and retired after the season. He did have one highlight however: on June 9th, he hit both an inside-the-park and outside-the-park homer in a 10-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox. He was the last White Sox player to do that until Brett Lawrie in 2016.

Santo hit over 20 home runs eleven times, and his career home run total (342) is one of the highest among players who were primarily third basemen. He was a nine-time All-Star, and a five-time Gold Glove winner. He finished in the top five in the MVP voting twice, led the league in walks four times, led the league in on-base percentage twice, and was in the top ten in slugging five times. He homered 42 times in his career off Hall of Fame pitchers.

Santo has played more third base for the Cubs than anyone else in team history. Almost all the other players who have played the most games games at a position for the Cubs are also in the Hall of Fame: Gabby Hartnett at catcher, Cap Anson at first base, Ryne Sandberg at second base, Billy Williams in left field and Hack Wilson in center field (and Sammy Sosa, who has the most games in right field, may eventually get into the Hall).

Santo suffered from diabetes and was one of the first players to openly admit to playing with the disease. As a result of the disease he underwent the amputation of both legs below the knees. Never complaining or seeking sympathy, Santo remained active with the Cubs' organization and in the fight against juvenile diabetes until his death at age 70 in 2010 from bladder cancer. Always upbeat and optimistic, Santo was often found speaking an encouraging word to a youngster recently diagnosed with the disease.

Beginning in 1990, he was a radio broadcaster for the Cubs and most recently teamed with Pat Hughes. He became very popular with a whole new generation of Cubs fans due to his unflagging loyalty to the team and his display of raw courage in the face of personal adversity. Santo reciprocated the sentiment. Although disappointed not to have made the Hall of Fame, Santo said in an endearing speech to Cubs fans that the Cubs' decision to retire his uniform number 10 meant more to him than the Hall of Fame. In early 2011, the Cubs announced that Santo would also be honored by a statue to be erected outside Wrigley Field that August, making him just the fourth person to be bestowed such an honor, after Hall of Famers (and former teammates) Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, and fellow broadcaster Harry Caray.

On December 5, 2011, three days after the first anniversary of his death, Santo was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee which was looking at players from the "Golden Era". He received 15 of 16 votes, being the only person on the ballot to receive enough votes to be elected. He was inducted on July 22, 2012, with his wife Vicki present in Cooperstown, NY to represent him. Until his belated election, Santo had been considered by many observers to be one of the best players not in the Hall. The most similar player to Santo, based on the similarity scores method, is Dale Murphy, although there is no player truly similar to Santo.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 1960 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 9-time NL All-Star (1963-1966, 1968, 1969 & 1971-1973)
  • 5-time NL Gold Glove Winner (1964-1968)
  • 2-time NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1964 & 1966)
  • NL Triples Leader (1964)
  • 4-time NL Bases on Balls Leader (1964 & 1966-1968)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 11 (1961, 1963-1971 & 1973)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1964-1967)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (1964, 1965, 1969 & 1970)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1967)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 2012

[edit] Further Reading

  • Pat Hughes and Rich Wolfe: Ron Santo: A Perfect 10, Lone Wolfe Press, 2011. ISBN 0984627820
  • Ron Santo (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, July 1972, pp. 55-57. [1]

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