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updated: 7/11/2012 11:11 PM

Santo's Hall election still feels hollow

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  • Ron Santo will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 22, something the longtime Cubs third baseman always hoped would happen while he was alive to enjoy it.

      Ron Santo will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 22, something the longtime Cubs third baseman always hoped would happen while he was alive to enjoy it.
    Associated Press File/April 2002

 
 

There was never any doubt in the minds of those without an agenda that Ron Santo belonged in the Hall of Fame.

Many of those who played with or against him during one of the great pitching eras in baseball history believed as much and lobbied for him, save a few Hall of Famers who think the Hall of Fame exists only for them.

No need to mention any names (Joe Morgan and Mike Schmidt).

Third base has been and continues to be the most underrepresented position in the Hall, with the fewest players elected overall and the fewest voted in by the writers.

Santo obviously suffered from a lack of national TV exposure, not to mention the argument that a team which never won anything -- the 1969 Cubs -- had enough Hall of Famers already with Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins.

But the simple fact is the numbers were there.

Upon his arrival Santo will immediately rank third among Hall of Fame third basemen in home runs, third in Gold Gloves, fourth in walks, fifth in RBI and sixth in hits.

During his career, Santo's 1,331 RBI ranked fifth among all players. When his plaque goes up on the wall in Cooperstown, the entire top 10 in RBI during Santo's career will be in the Hall of Fame.

Santo was one of only two third basemen to have more than 300 home runs and five Gold Gloves. The other (Schmidt) was elected to Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility with 96.5 percent of the vote.

If something like WAR (wins above replacement) means more to you, Santo ranks 93rd in baseball history, and the only third basemen ahead of him are Hall of Famers Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Brooks Robinson and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones.

Yes, he belongs.

So, finally, Cubs fans will get to make the trek to upstate New York to pay tribute to a truly great baseball player. There will be much revelry on one of sports' most enjoyable weekends.

So I have really tried to embrace Ron Santo's election to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Honestly, I have.

For seven months I've tried to talk myself into going, into enjoying the weekend in one of my favorite places on the planet.

For selfish reasons, I wanted to celebrate his induction ceremony that will take place a little more than a week from now in Cooperstown.

More than anything, I wanted to be happy for Santo. But there's just one small problem with that: He's not here anymore.

Santo was elected by the Golden Era Committee 367 days after his death, and all I remembered that day was Santo in August 2001 saying, "I've always said I wouldn't want it to happen if I was dead, so I hope I live that long."

He did not, and I can't get past it.

That is my problem. If you're going, have a wonderful time. If you're watching on TV, shed a tear for No. 10.

I doubt I will even turn on the broadcast.

His family, friends and former teammates continue to tell me I should be happy for him, that this is what he always wanted and that we should all fill a glass and toast the day.

But it's just not happening for me.

The pain he felt at not being included in that group, at never knowing what it felt like to get the recognition he knew he deserved, hurt him to his soul, and that pain was at its worst when a Hall of Famer was in his presence.

That's what I think of when I think of his election.

I miss my friend and I'm bitter that he didn't get his day, but I am grateful for the many years I had with him.

See, if Ron Santo considered you a friend, it was unconditional.

If he thought of you as a friend, you were as good as family.

And if you were part of his family, he loved you like a brother -- or maybe even a son.

I was fortunate to have him as a friend. On induction day, that memory will be enough.

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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