02/24/2003 12:16 PM ET
Santo waiting for Hall call
Former Cubs third baseman optimistic about chances
MESA, Ariz. -- Ron Santo doesn't want any sympathy votes. If he's getting into the Hall of Fame, he wants it to be because of his ability as a ballplayer, not because he's a double-amputee.
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
Santo, who turns 63 Tuesday, will find out Wednesday whether his peers have elected him to Cooperstown. That's when the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee will announce its vote totals. The former Chicago Cubs third baseman needs 75 percent of the 80 votes cast to be inducted.
The optimistic Santo, who lost his left leg in December, nearly one year after his right leg was amputated, knows he's gotten notoriety because of his battle with diabetes.
Complications from the disease prompted doctors to decide to amputate both legs. Santo doesn't expect the voters to use that as a reason to mark him on their ballot.
"They're not going to be looking at me getting in the Hall of Fame because I lost two legs," Santo said. "They're going to be looking at the type of ballplayer I was.
"I can tell you honestly what this has probably shown to a lot of people is how devastating diabetes can be. I played 15 years with that disease and put up the numbers I put up.
"I've always said this -- the Lord gave me the ability. It was easy to hit, it was easy to field, it was easy to throw, I didn't have the greatest speed but I could do it all. I was an all-around ballplayer. What if I didn't have (diabetes)? How good and how long would I have played? What I have done, I think I deserve to be in."
A nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, Santo played for the Cubs from 1960-73 and for the Chicago White Sox in 1974. He batted .277 in his career and hit 337 home runs, the fourth highest total in Cubs history.
This will be his 14th season as a WGN Radio commentator. He has adjusted so well to his prosthetic legs that he is walking around the Cubs Spring Training camp using only a cane. His hopes of getting into Cooperstown?
"Very high. My hopes are so high," Santo said. "I've never had indications like this. If I don't make it, I don't know how I'm going to be -- a manic depressive? I don't know. I kid that I have a lovely pool at my place and if I jump in with these legs if I don't make it (into the Hall), just let me hang down at the bottom."
He's just kidding, folks. Santo has a full schedule of Cubs games to broadcast, beginning with a Spring Training tilt on Thursday.
"I sure hope he makes it," said Hall of Famer and former Cubs teammate Ferguson Jenkins. "He's in great spirits for a gentleman who has lost both his legs. Ronnie has a heart bigger than this room. He promised he would be here Opening Day.
"Being a Hall of Famer, being able to cast a ballot for the Veteran's Committee -- I think it's very important. We saw the players play, played against them and were even teammates with some of them. We know what the athlete was all about. I feel very good. I talked to some of the guys here and a lot of the guys here have cast their ballots in favor of Ronnie."
Santo, one of 25 players on the Veterans Committee ballot, said he's happy to have his peers voting for him.
"I know the one thing that I have in my favor is the fact that the Hall of Famers are voting and if you look at the list, I've played against most of them," he said.
However, they may not all have good memories of Santo. Take Gaylord Perry.
"Perry and I never got along," Santo said. "I went after him once in Spring Training."
And Tom Seaver?
"He's very competitive. He's knocked me down a few times and I hit a few home runs off him," Santo said.
He can only hope the Hall of Famers look past those incidents.
"I hope they concentrate on that I played 15 years in the big leagues, I was a very consistent ballplayer both ways and I was an impact player," Santo said. "I hope that's what they concentrate on."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. Amy Sternig contributed to this report. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.