Archive: Santo counting on call from Hall
Originally published Jan. 5, 1998
Ron Santo is no stranger to pain, but there's no pain stranger than that which he's feeling this morning.
For the first time in his life, he can see the Holy Grail.
For the first time, he feels like he's not dreaming.
For the first time, Ron Santo is really banking on getting elected to the Hall of Fame.
That's why it'll be so traumatic this afternoon if Santo's name isn't on the list of inductees.
"You know I haven't admitted this until now," Santo said Sunday, "but if I don't get in, this is really going to hurt. I mean, it's going to hurt really, really bad.
"This year I'm feeling likeae...aelike I can really make it. I want to make it so bad it hurts, and if I don't get in, well ... well ... I just don't know.
"If there's any chance, this is the year. This is my biggest chance and if I don't get in I'll be very disappointed. I'll be very unhappy and to tell you the truth it'll take me a while to get over it."
Assuming Santo doesn't make it - and the guess here is that he'll fall about 75 votes short - he'll be off the ballot forever. But even though this was his last chance to get voted in, the Veteran's Committee will be able to consider him starting in 2001.
And everyone associated with the Hall believes he'll be inducted within the first year or two after that.
"The Veteran's Committee? Well, that's three years from now," Santo said. "I mean, you don't know. Don't get me wrong. I'm in good shape, but you never know, and I want to get in while I'm alive.
"Still, you want to get voted in. It'll mean as much the other way, but it'll be a disappointment, and ... "
Santo pauses for a moment, unsure if he should finish his thought. But he does.
"It'll be sad, (darn) it," he says. "I played hard. I played to win. I have the numbers. Even though we never won, I hit fourth on a good team with two other Hall of Famers and I know pitchers feared me. I deserve to be in there. I know it, my peers know it and most of the writers know it.
"It'll be devastating if I don't get in this time. It will be just devastating.'
Hard luck life
It's typical of Ron Santo's 57 years on this planet that in the year he probably takes a major step toward induction, it's his last on the ballot.
But nothing ever was given to him.
He lost his parents in a car accident during spring training as a young player. He fought through diabetes to become an all-star in an era when little was known about how to control the disease.
He suffered through the '69 Cubs, and his career died during the miserable summer of 1974 on the South Side. He could still play after 15 years, but unhappy with the game he simply walked away.
Then, he went out and made himself a millionaire in the business world. Now, with no formal education or training, he's doing radio color work for the team he loves. Not because he needs the money, but because he wants to do it. He's a walking definition of a self-made man.
But he's never been one to ask anyone for anything, which is why it pains him so much now to need help from someone else.
"I hear some guys say they don't care if they get in," Santo says. "Well, let me tell you one thing: I do care. Right now, I want it more than anything else in the world."
Who will make it?
Don Sutton (324 wins) narrowly missed last year and should get the call today. Tony Perez has a shot and Ron Santo - who got 186 votes last January when 354 were needed - may jump up into the high 200s.
No one from this year's class of newcomers, led by the camera-friendly Gary Carter, will get voted in today - unless they've suddenly lowered the standards.
Not his fault
When you think of Ron Santo, you have to wonder about a bizarre voting system in which writers who've been away from the game for 40 years can vote for players they've never seen play, and writers who are in the game today can decide not to vote for a player like Santo, whom they may have never seen play.