Chicago Cubs fans may have another reason to go to Cooperstown this summer.
Ryne Sandberg will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 31. He could have company if the Veterans Committee picks former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo when it announces its vote results on March 2.
It's the second time Santo is on the Veterans Committee ballot. He learned from the first experience.
Two years ago, Santo's peers told him he was going to Cooperstown. His son, Jeff, put together the documentary "This Old Cub." The documentary detailed Santo's career and included snippets from Hall of Famers saying how much Santo belonged.
The media invaded Santo's Phoenix-area home on the day of the announcement. But the Veterans Committee snubbed Santo and did not elect anyone in 2003.
Santo gets another chance this year, as one of 25 former Major League players on the 2005 Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot.
click player names for full bios:
Dick Allen (1963-77)
Bobby Bonds (1968-81)
Ken Boyer (1955-69)
Rocky Colavito (1955-68)
Wes Ferrell (1927-41)
Curt Flood (1956-69, 71)
Joe Gordon (1938-50)
Gil Hodges (1943, 1947-63)
Elston Howard (1955-68)
Jim Kaat (1959-83)
Mickey Lolich (1963-79)
Sparky Lyle (1967-82)
Marty Marion (1940-50, 52-53)
Roger Maris (1957-68)
Carl Mays (1915-29)
(1949, 1951-64, 76, 80)
Thurman Munson (1969-79)
Tony Oliva (1962-76)
Vada Pinson (1958-75)
Ron Santo (1960-74)
Luis Tiant (1964-82)
Joe Torre (1960-77)
Smoky Joe Wood
Maury Wills (1959-72)
Any candidates named on 75 percent of the ballots cast will be honored in Cooperstown on July 31. There could be an overload of Cub fans in Cooperstown if Santo is inducted the same year as Sandberg, who was elected into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
If Santo's fans think he's been slighted, listen to this comment from Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus:
"The omission of Ron Santo is the most egregious mistake ever made by the Baseball Writers Association of America," Sheehan wrote in a column for ESPN.com. "They should have inducted Santo 20 years ago, and that they overlooked him throughout his 15 years on the ballot is a shame. I sincerely hope that the new Veterans Committee rights the error quickly. It will be a boon to their credibility and an honor for a man too long left outside the hallowed halls of Cooperstown."
Santo played for the Cubs from 1960-73, and won five consecutive Gold Glove awards. A nine-time All-Star, he hit .277 in his career with 342 home runs and 1,331 RBIs. He didn't reach 400 homers or 3,000 hits (he totaled 2,254 in his career), but Santo was one of the top third basemen in his era.
There are only 10 third basemen in Cooperstown, including George Brett, George Kell, Eddie Matthews, Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt.
Santo made it clear two years ago that he didn't want his battle with diabetes to generate any sympathy votes. He has had both legs amputated because of complications with the disease. Think that would stop him? Hardly. One of the most resilient and upbeat people you'd ever meet, Santo is inspiring. He is on the board of directors of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and his yearly walk-a-thon has raised more than $50 million.
His story, detailed in "This Old Cub," prompted Bill Holden to walk from Arizona to Chicago this winter to raise money for JDF.
Santo hid his diabetes from baseball until Aug. 28, 1971, on "Ron Santo Day" at Wrigley Field, when he revealed he had battled with it since the age of 18. Some fans recall seeing Santo eating candy bars in the dugout before games. It was the only way he could keep his energy level up.
Santo, who turns 65 in February, has been hospitalized the last three winters -- twice to have his legs amputated and last year because of bladder cancer. This winter, he's focused more on an exercise routine and horseback riding with wife Vicki.
She'll do her part to keep the Hall announcement date subdued.
"Two years ago, I got so high," Ron Santo said. "I think this year, I'll be at my house by myself. I'll keep it low-key. I got too high [two years ago] and it was a big letdown, and I realized that I had no control over it. If it happens, I'll be delighted, and if it doesn't happen, the sad part is I've got to wait two more years."
Besides Santo, the final Veterans Committee ballot includes Dick Allen, Bobby Bonds, Ken Boyer, Rocky Colavito, Wes Ferrell, Curt Flood, Joe Gordon, Gil Hodges, Elston Howard, Jim Kaat, Mickey Lolich, Sparky Lyle, Marty Marion, Roger Maris, Carl Mays, Minnie Minoso, Thurman Munson, Don Newcombe, Tony Oliva, Vada Pinson, Luis Tiant, Joe Torre, Maury Wills, and Smoky Joe Wood.
The Veterans Committee electorate (currently at 83 members), is comprised of the living Hall of Fame members (60), Ford C. Frick Award recipients (14), J.G. Taylor Spink Award recipients (8) and former Veterans Committee members whose terms have not yet expired (one).
Santo will wait and see.
"Hopefully, I'm pleasantly surprised," he said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.