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Baseball: Cubs' beloved Santo finally elected to Hall of Fame

By Ben Walker

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 6 2011 12:05 a.m. MST

"I always admired Ron's courage and loyalty, and I miss him very much," he said.

Jim Kaat was second with 10 votes, Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso each drew nine and Tony Oliva got eight on the 10-person Golden Era ballot. Buzzie Bavasi, Ken Boyer, Charlie Finley, Allie Reynolds and Luis Tiant each received under three votes.

Santo never came close to election during his 15 times on the BBWAA ballot, peaking at 43 percent — far short of the needed 75 percent in his last year of eligibility in 1998.

Santo had gotten closer in previous elections by the Veterans Committee. The panel has been revamped several times in the last decade, aimed at giving a better look at deserving candidates.

Since his final swing in 1974, Santo's numbers on the field never changed. The perception of what he meant to the game did, though.

"From the discussion yesterday, we kind of got in depth," Williams said. "We really, really talked about each individual and some things were brought out, I imagine that wasn't brought out last time, in so far as what he'd done for the game of baseball, the $60 million he raised for (juvenile diabetes research), all the other stuff we knew."

"This was the case of Ron Santo. We talked about it, we had good discussions on it and it happened," he said.

Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson was also part of the panel that voted on Santo.

"I kept thinking that he would get in then, then, then and finally he got in, but it's a little too late for him to be there," he said.

"He's just a terrific guy, he's baseball through and through, he's done a lot for the game of baseball in his career, and he's been though a lot of hardships physically and he was just a terrific player," he said. "He certainly belongs in the Hall of Fame. A long time coming. No one knows the reason he didn't get in when the writers were voting, but this process we have has been the fairest, I think."

Santo is the 15th third baseman in the Hall, including three from the Negro Leagues. He was a career .277 hitter and hit at least 30 homers every season from 1964-67.

"I think the happy ending was already there, though. He got his statue and this was a little icing on the cake," son Jeff Santo said. "It definitely puts an end to the chapter there, that's for sure, with the Hall of Fame."

Santo made his debut at 20 with the Cubs in 1960 and played his whole career with them until finishing with the crosstown White Sox in 1974.

Like Banks, Santo never got to play in a World Series. They came close in 1969, overtaken in the stretch by a New York Mets team managed by Hodges, the former Brooklyn star first baseman.

That year, Santo liked to jump and click his heels after wins. It was also the season a fateful picture was taken, showing Santo with on a bat on his shoulder in the on-deck circle at Shea Stadium as a black cat scampered past.

"The '69 team was so very, very close, and the joy that they had not only as players, but to the day he passed, and they're still so very close," Vicki Santo said.

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