12/08/08 3:30 PM EST
Santo denied Hall entry by Veterans
Cubs icon nearly 15 percent shy of Cooperstown enshrinement
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
The former Cubs third baseman received 39 votes from the Veterans Committee and was denied entry into the Hall of Fame.
"It's so ridiculous that nobody gets in again," Santo said from his Arizona home. "I can't understand it."
Last year, Santo received 57 votes, or 69.5 percent, and was five votes short. This year, he received 60.9 percent and came up nine votes short. Any player receiving at least 75 percent of the vote from the Veterans Committee, which consists of the 64 living Hall of Famers, will be enshrined in Cooperstown.
The Veterans Committee did not elect anyone from the post-1943 group into the Hall but did name Joe Gordon, who was on the pre-1943 ballot.
The other members of the post-1943 ballot were Jim Kaat (38 votes), Tony Oliva (33), Gil Hodges (28), Joe Torre (19), Maury Wills (15), Luis Tiant (13), Vada Pinson (12), Al Oliver (nine) and Dick Allen (seven).
"I feel there are guys out there who belong in the Hall of Fame," Hall of Famer Joe Morgan said Monday at the Bellagio Hotel, where the announcement was made. "The problem is we can't find 75 percent who agrees that one guy is the guy."
Santo has not been shy about how much he wants to be enshrined with baseball's greats.
"They get the ballot and they only look at the name -- they don't look at the numbers," Santo said on Monday. "They should have a committee and sit down and talk about the 10 guys [eligible]. You've got to have people who know what you've done."
Santo said he was handling the disappointment on Monday better than he thought he would, although he did confess to not being able to sleep the past three weeks.
"If they can't fix [the format], then let it go," Santo said.
Part of Santo's urgency stems from his health. He was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 18 but didn't reveal that he had it until the Cubs celebrated "Ron Santo Day" on Aug. 28, 1971. He played for the team from 1960-73, spent one season with the crosstown White Sox, and then retired.
A career .277 hitter, Santo won five Gold Glove Awards and was a nine-time All-Star. In the past few years, he has had both of his legs amputated below the knees because of complications with the disease. That hasn't stopped him. The 2009 season will be Santo's 20th in the broadcast booth with WGN Radio. He turns 69 in February.
Billy Williams, who was Santo's teammate on the Cubs, and who was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1987, likes the Veterans Committee system.
"Many years ago, the players used to vote for who was elected to the All-Star Game and you really felt good about it because your peers voted you in," Williams said. "It's always good to know that they voted you in.
"This is what we have now -- there are players who played with Gil Hodges or against him, and the majority of these people [on the committee] were Santo's peers and played against him," Williams said. "There are guys like Ernie [Banks] and Fergie [Jenkins] and myself, and we saw him play and saw the type of player he was, and that's how we cast our votes. We thought he was a Hall of Fame player."
Santo holds the National League record among third basemen for most consecutive games played (364 -- April 4, 1964, to May 31, 1966), most games played in a season (164 games, 1965) and most seasons leading the league in total chances accepted (nine).
He joined the Cubs on June 24, 1960, and made his Major League debut two days later. It was a good start, as Santo went 3-for-7 and drove in five runs. Funny thing is, he has already been to Cooperstown. On June 27, 1960, the Cubs played the Indians in the annual Hall of Fame game, and Santo homered off Jack Harshman in the Cubs' 5-0 win.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.