MESA, Ariz. -- As much as Ron Santo wants to get into the Hall of Fame, he says he's not going to sit by the phone and wait for Cooperstown to call anymore. It's just too painful for him.
Santo was denied entrance to the Hall of Fame again as the Veterans Committee Wednesday did not vote anyone into Cooperstown.
"It was a tough day," Santo said Wednesday. "I'm feeling better now, but it was tough. I'm fortunate that I have a wonderful family that puts everything into perspective."
With 80 members of the 83-man Veterans Committee returning ballots, induction required 60 votes for the necessary 75 percent. Santo and Gil Hodges both were eight votes shy, receiving 52. Tony Oliva was third in the balloting with 45 votes, followed by Jim Kaat with 43, and Joe Torre with 36.
"Election to the Hall of Fame has always been difficult," said Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark. "The Veterans Committee process gives players a second chance for consideration, but one must be reminded that each player on the ballot was considered for up to 15 years by the baseball writers. The current process works by upholding the Hall of Fame's high standards for election."
Santo's Hall of Fame teammates Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, and Fergie Jenkins voted for him.
"His club didn't win a pennant, but Ron Santo was an important part of that club winning day after day," Jenkins said Wednesday.
"It did make me feel good that I did get an increase in the votes," said Santo, who was 12 votes shy two years ago. "Really, I'm not going to worry about it anymore. Where I am today isn't because I'm in the Hall of Fame or not. It's because of how I treat the fans and all people."
Jenkins said he likes the Veterans Committee setup, even though it hasn't elected anyone into the Hall the last two years.
"We understand what they did for the game and who these guys were," Jenkins said.
Two years ago, when the Veterans Committee first cast its ballots, Santo invited the media into his north Scottsdale home to wait for the announcement. His disappointment was captured live -- and that experience was something he didn't want to go through again this time. He spent Wednesday with his family.
Santo said he woke up around 2:30 a.m., went back to sleep around 5 a.m., and woke up again at 9 a.m. to wait for the call that never came.
"It's hard to believe no one got in," Santo said. "One thing I can say is the next time I won't be sitting at home waiting for the phone."
He then laughed, which emphasized one of Santo's best traits. He's resilient.
"What I do want to say is that I know that in the fans' hearts I am a Hall of Famer, and that means more to me than anything else," Santo said. "And I know my number will be there at Wrigley Field for a long, long time."
The Cubs retired Santo's No. 10 at the end of the 2003 season. It's one of three numbers retired by the team, and Ryne Sandberg's No. 23 will be added this summer after he is inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. Sandberg was voted in this year by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
"It's pretty sad," Sandberg said Wednesday. "I think everyone around here has a little different perspective because I'm around here every day and people are pulling for him -- the city of Chicago, the Cubs organization, the fans. I had a pretty good feeling this year with all the positive things that have been said and that I hear."
Santo played 15 years in the big leagues, all but one with the Cubs. He has a career .277 average, 342 home runs and 1,331 RBIs, and he accumulated those numbers despite having diabetes.
He has had both legs amputated because of complications with the disease, but didn't want any sympathy votes. The 2005 season will be his 16th with WGN Radio.
"He certainly deserves it," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "I know he wants it. His family wants it. The city of Chicago wants it."
"It's an exclusive club, and you're happy you're in," said Williams, who was inducted in 1987. "You know that it's tough to get in there."
Earlier this week, Santo said his sons had tried to prepare him in advance, saying if he didn't get elected, it would not change his accomplishments as a player.
"My family got me through this," he said.
Williams got through to Santo late Wednesday.
"Billy Williams called and said he was heartbroken," Santo said. "That means more to me than anything. He was really ready to celebrate."
So were a lot of Cub fans, who would've jammed Cooperstown this summer to celebrate both Sandberg and Santo.
"I played behind Santo in Double-A and I saw him make the progression and played behind him in Triple-A and then all those years in the Major Leagues," Williams said. "His reaction was great. He wasn't fast at foot. He couldn't run. But he was always in the right place at the right time when that ball came at third base. Making the plays one-handed, or bare-handed, it was always good. He made some great plays over there at third base.
"What did he get -- five Gold Gloves? A lot of people can't make that claim," Williams said. "I know (not getting into Cooperstown) is disappointing to him and to all the people who have played with him."
The only time multiple players, each playing at least 10 seasons as a Cub, were inducted into the Hall of Fame in the same year was 1946 when Frank Chance, Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker were honored. Clark Griffith, who played eight seasons as a Cub, was also inducted that year.
"I think everybody feels for him," Sandberg said. "On the other hand, he's an inspiration every day he comes out to the ballpark. He's very popular in Chicago, a very popular guy in the locker room and on the field. He has all those positive things going for him."
"Tomorrow is a whole new day, because the [Cactus League] season starts," Santo said. Thursday is the opening day of the Cubs' Cactus League season, and Santo will be working, doing color commentary for WGN Radio.
"Believe me, the only thing I'm looking for now is a World Series -- and a cure for juvenile diabetes," he said.
His family, which has supported him through his numerous operations, and was there again Wednesday.
"Thank God they were here," Santo said. "I got right back on track. I realize what a wonderful life I've had and how fortunate I am to have family and friends like I have."
When the Veterans Committee reconvenes in two years, Sandberg will be on it.
"He'll have one more vote coming from me," Sandberg said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.