A Tribute to Ron Santo: Cubs’ Third Baseman Finally Enters Cooperstown

Tuesday August 14th, 2012

Patrick Languzzi (Cooperstown Correspondent, Twitter @PatrickLanguzzi): On July 22nd, 2012, Ron Santo was inducted into The National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Santo, a long time radio broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs, had no reservations about sharing his passion for baseball, his beloved Cubs and the Hall of Fame, where he felt he had always belonged.

And, according to Joe Lemire of SI.com’s inside baseball, Santo once told Chicago Magazine, “The last thing I want is to die and then be put into the Hall of Fame. It’s not because I won’t be there to enjoy it, exactly. It’s because I want to enjoy it with family and friends and fans. I want to see them enjoy it.”

Sadly, we lost Ron Santo before he ever got a chance to receive the phone call he longed to yearn for. Santo passed away slightly more than a year (and two days) to the day he was to finally be elected into baseballs highest pantheon.

“This is not a sad day, not at all. This is a very happy day… I am certain that Ronnie is celebrating with us right now.”   -Vicki Santo

On December 5, 2011, Ron Santo was voted into the Hall of Fame 15-1 by the Golden Era committee (Veterans) some 31 years after he first became eligible. At the end of the day, few will remember how a player got into Cooperstown, or how long it took. Once the plaques are on the famed wall, all hall of famers are treated the same. It took too long, but Ron Santo’s plaque is finally where it belongs.

Looking back at his career, Santo originally signed as a free agent with Chicago Cubs in 1959. He made his Major League debut in June of 1960 at the tender age of 20. He quickly became one of the best third basemen in Major League Baseball and batted cleanup on a team that included Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Ernie Banks.

At first glance, his raw numbers may not astound you: Career batting average of .277, Home runs 342, Hits 2,254, RBIs 1,331. But contrary to popular belief, baseball is more than just raw numbers.

As you begin to scrape the surface and dig deeper, it’s becomes clearer that Santo truly belongs in the Hall.

For instance, Santo was a nine-time All-Star and won five Gold Gloves. He’s the only third baseman in history with 90 RBIs in eight consecutive seasons (’63-’70) and he was the first third baseman to win five Gold Gloves and hit 300 home runs. He also managed to hit 30 or more home runs in four consecutive seasons (’64-’67) and was the only Cubs player to hit over .300 in 1966.

Very impressive numbers, considering that he was playing in an era (’60s) dominated by pitchers.

Bill James ranked Santo (88th) among the 100 greatest players of all-time. With the addition of James’ sabermetrics system, Santo’s SLG .464, OBP .362, OPS .826, OPS+ 125 and WAR 66.6 over his career only helped his Cooperstown case.

As amazing as a Hall of Fame player as Santo went on to become, he was an even greater human being.

Diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes [type 1] at a young age, Santo had a life expectancy of about 53 years. But he lived to beat the odds, both in life and in baseball.

Santo would often gauge his blood sugar based on his moods. Lemire went on to write, “On any given day he played doctor and patient, as well as third base. He tested his sugars by taking batting practice. He checked his glucose levels by fielding grounders. He gauged the amount of insulin he would need after running the bases.”

In August of 1971, Santo finally came public with his secret of living with diabetes. He went on to say, “I didn’t want anyone to know about the diabetes because I felt that people would think that I was copping out, using it as an alibi if I was going bad. But I want to make it clear that being a diabetic hasn’t affected my career in the slightest. As long as I take care of myself properly, I’m as good physically as any other player.”

Santo went on to be named to the Cubs All-Century team and had his No. 10 was retired on September 28, 2003.

Santo eventually had both his legs amputated below the knee due to his diabetes, and until his death in 2010, he helped raise over $65 million for Juvenile Diabetes Research. He was a true humanitarian and great ambassador for the game of baseball.

It’s truly incredible what Ron Santo had to over come, both in life, and in baseball. He fought diabetes, became an all-star, and has been enshrined among the games most elite players.

And for that, we’re proud to honor Hall of Famer Ron Santo. Welcome to Cooperstown!

Ron Santos’ Hall of Fame Plaque

Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Joe Lemire – Inside Baseball at SI.com, SABR, American Diabetes Association, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, ESPN Chicago

(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)


***Today’s feature was prepared by our Cooperstown Correspondent, Patrick Languzzi. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Patrick on Twitter (@PatrickLanguzzi) Also, please feel free to check out Patrick’s grass routes campaign in support of Dwight “Dewey” Evans for the Hall of Fame at: Call to the Hall***

 

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Posted on August 14, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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