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Disrespect and Disgrace Apparent at Veterans Committee Election of Ron Santo

By Chuck Johnson ~ December 5th, 2011. Filed under: Hall of Fame.

It’s finally happened.

Thirty-seven years after playing his last game, Ron Santo is a Hall of Famer.

I’m so disgusted I want to puke.

Not at the result, mind you.

While I’m on record as not being a supporter of Santo’s worthiness, but I am for the process involved, especially the Hall of Fame in general and the Veteran’s Committee in particular; the numbers are clearly there for Santo, he ranks eighth all-time in games played as a third baseman, and ranked second in the National League in runs batted in to the legendary Henry Aaron during the pitching dominated decade of the sixties.

A nine time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner during his fifteen year career, Santo was forced to retire at age 34 due to complications related to his battle with Type 1 diabetes.

Diagnosed at eighteen, Santo kept his condition a secret throughout his career, making a public disclosure of his fight during ceremonies honoring his career as a Cub at Wrigley Field in 1971.

Santo’s first appearance on the BBWAA election ballot was in 1980, where he received just 1.9% of the vote, and in accordance with voting procedures was removed from further consideration.

There was such an outcry that Santo (along with several others), was reinstated to the ballot in time for the 1985 vote. Over the next fourteen years, Santo remained on the ballot, reaching a high of 43.1% during his final year in 1998. Not only was this the only time he managed to reach forty percent, it was just the second time he managed to obtain half of the required seventy-five percent needed for election.

Following his retirement, Santo spent several years in private business before accepting an offer to join the Cubs’ broadcast team in 1990. There he would spend almost twenty years, further cementing his legend and legacy among the Cubs’ faithful, which culminated with the erection of a statue in his honor outside Wrigley Field.

While its primary function is to consider non-playing personnel for the Hall, the Veterans Committee also takes a look at giving “second chances” to players who were “overlooked” by the BBWAA. Hard to overlook someone for fifteen years, wouldn’t you say?

Initially, the Veterans Committee was nothing more than a good ol’ boys network comprised of a handful of retired sportswriters who’s only thought was to reward their drinking and card playing buddies from days gone by. In recent times, however, the “VC” has taken on a more serious tone, its tasks and responsibilities having been revamped and revised four times since 2001, and yet, here we are, I guess the old adage is true; “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

So, after fifteen years on the writers’ ballot and another dozen or so under the watchful eye of the VC, Ron Santo has finally received his just do.

One small problem, though. On December 10, 2010 Ron Santo died.

After a fifty plus year struggle with a disease which cost him both legs, but never affected his heart or his mind, it finally cost him his life. And only then did the Veteran’s Committee believe him to be worthy of induction.

The phone lines are starting to burn between Chicago and Cooperstown as we speak, and Santo himself is undoubtedly clicking his heels wherever he is.

Congratulations, Ronnie. My personal opinions aside, you are more than worthy of your status as a Hall of Famer, and I’m proud to have seen you play during your prime.

To the Veterans Committee, I hope you’re all happy.

You had twelve years to “right the wrong” of the BBWAA, and had more than enough time while Ron was alive to do the right thing, so he could actually be around to experience what it is to be a Hall of Famer. But what you’re really telling us now? That he’s only became worthy after death?

While “better late than never” is true in most cases, all you’ve really accomplished today is to disrespect the legacy and memory of a man long over-due for this honor, and once again disgraced the integrity of what it is you actually stand for in the first place.



Mike Silva adds:

As I talked about when I was wrapping up last night’s show, the NYBD readers had an opportunity to show their support for their favorite candidates. In our own ” Golden Era ” election, I tabulated the ballots from all our readers.

NYBD readers didn’t elect anyone, as none of the Golden Era selections received 75% of the vote. Here is the final tally:

Gil Hodges: 73.4%

Ron Santo: 55.1%

Jim Kaat: 31.3%

Tony Oliva: 21.5%

Allie Reynolds: 18.7%

Luis Tiant: 16.4%

Minnie Minoso: 15.9%

Charlie Finley: 11.2%

Buzzie Bavasi: 11.2%

Ken Boyer: 10.7%


Here is the 16-member Veterans Committee Voted:

Ron Santo: 15/16 = 93.7%

Jim Kaat: 10/16= 62.5%

Gil Hodges: 9/16 = 56.2%

Minnie Minoso: 9/16= 56.2%

Tony Oliva: 8/16= 50%  ’

According to the Hall of Fame,“Buzzie Bavasi, Ken Boyer, Charlie Finley, Allie Reynolds and Luis Tiant, each received less than three votes.”


In case you were wondering who is on the committee, the Hall of Fame website states that “the 16-member Hall of Fame Board-appointed electorate charged with the review of the Golden Era ballot features Hall of Fame members Hank AaronAl KalineRalph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan MarichalBrooks RobinsonDon Sutton and Billy Williams; major league executives Paul Beeston(Blue Jays), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals), Roland Hemond (Diamondbacks), Gene Michael (Yankees), andAl Rosen (retired); along with veteran media members Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell and Dave Van Dyck.”


The one snub that stands out locally is Gil Hodges. I believe that Hodges belongs in the Hall of Fame. I wrote the following back on November 7th:

Gil Hodges has been a hot Hall of Fame debate for years, nearly gaining election in 1993 when he fell short one vote. Hodges has both his record playing first base with the Dodgers and his managerial accomplishments with the Mets. The Hall uses a hard mark for first baseman as only 15 players with 1,000 or more games at first have been selected. Before getting into Hodges record, his career is very similar to that of Tony PerezEddie Murray, and Orlando Cepeda- all in the Hall of Fame.

Hodges does fall into the lower tier of first baseman when using advanced stats like OPS+ and WAR. His 119 OPS+ is lower than all first base inductees outside of High Pockets Kelly. From 1950-1957 he hit 263 home runs, drove in 857 runs, and had a .897 OPS. Only Ted Kluszewski had a higher OPS+ than his 132. When you use WAR, Hodges is 10 wins share better than Kluszewski at 37.8.

Most of his production did occur during that 8 year period, since he totaled 44.6 WAR for his career. Higher than the aforementioned Kelly and Jim Bottomley in HOF first baseman.

If you are the on the fence his work with the 1969 Mets should get him over the top. Yes, he had Seaver, Ryan, Koosman, and McGraw on his historic pitching staff, but to keep that Mets team focused on a pennant even when they were 13.5 games out in August is one of the better managerial jobs in history. He was able to maximize his limited offensive talent with platoons that put players in the best position to succeed. Isn’t that what makes a good manager? Even more important is how he immediately changed the culture of “lovable losers” upon his arrival.

I applaud the Committee for recognizing Santo.  There are only 8 in inductees that played 1,000 or more games at third base. Quite frankly, is there a better third basemen in the ’60s? I can’t think of one. From 1963-1969 Santo had an OPS+ of 144, 204 home runs, 727 RBI, and OPS of .881. Brooks Robinson, already in the Hall, is a distant second in most offensive categories. Yes, Robinson is probably the best defensive third baseman of all-time, but Santo won 5 Gold Gloves of his own.  As Chuck said, his election should have been done years ago, and it’s a shame he has passed and won’t be present at the July ceremony.

If you want to read some of my thoughts on the other candidates you can click here. I also wrote extensively about Jim Kaat here and Allie Reynolds here.

A life-long Yankee fan who counts among his fondest memories seeing “The Mick” play in person, Chuck is a long time member of SABR and the Minor League Alumni Association. A staff researcher for Retrosheet, and a former part-time scout with the Mariners, Chuck now works for the Milwaukee Brewers in their Spring Training Operations Office and holds a similar role in the offseason for the Arizona Fall League. Chuck's newest venture is as a staff writer for MLB.com's new minor league blog http://thefuturists.mlblogs.com, led by Senior Writer Jonathan Mayo. You can check him out there under user cjohns56 (same as Twitter), and on his soon to be launched personal website, www.mlbprospectpulse.com.
Chuck Johnson
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3 Responses to Disrespect and Disgrace Apparent at Veterans Committee Election of Ron Santo

  1. M. Scott Eiland

    There are few failures more thorough than when a Hall of Fame selection body who has refused to induct a player for decades does so just after he dies. Either he or she still doesn’t belong-meaning the body has failed in its duty-or the post-mortem induction is merely an exclamation point on the utter failure to appropriately honor the sports figure while he or she was alive to enjoy the experience and share their thoughts with the fans. As atrocious as the HOF’s treatment of Buck O’Neil has been, at least the SOBs have been consistent up to now by continuing to deny him immortality after he left us.

  2. David

    Stop with the Gil Hodges! So NY centric!

  3. gringoculto

    I was a die hard mets fan…..16 years old in 1969 and living in New York and watching the mets surge and the Cubs decline during thaqt magic summer. My dad who KNEW baseball and I watched a lot of games together….and his comment abut Santo was simply…..he s a helluva of a player.

    I m so sorry that took baseball so long to admit Ron Santo into the HOF and he even sorrier that he died before he got his just due.

    That Buck O Neill is NOR in the HOF is another continuing stain on baseball.

    I think Luis Taint clearly is a HOF.. Jim Kaat and Tommy John shoud also be in….from earler times Gl Hodges, how about Wes Ferrell?

    and in 20 years Keith Hernandez will still not be in the HOF

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