Click your heels, Cubs fans. Ron Santo has finally been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
If only the emotions of Cubs fans could be that cut and dry today. Instead, the happiness is tempered with frustration about the timing of Santo’s election; bittersweet feelings stand in for what normally would be celebratory joy. Yes, Santo finally got his due, getting elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Era Committee, but it came a year and two days after the Cubs legend died.
Like many others, I’m baffled as to why it took so long for Santo to get into the Hall of Fame when his statistics seemed to clearly show he deserved enshrinement in Cooperstown. During his 15 seasons playing in Chicago (the first 14 for the Cubs and the last one for the White Sox), Santo hit .277 with 2,254 hits, 342 home runs, 1,331 RBI, 1,138 runs and 1,108 walks — statistics that compare favorably to most other third basemen in the Hall of Fame. He also was a 9-time All-Star and won five Gold Glove awards. Add to that mix the fact that Santo put up Hall of Fame-worthy numbers as a diabetic before medical advancements made that easier to do. (Kudos to MLB Network’s Dan Plesac for pointing that out after Santo’s election announcement was made; I’ve long believed the adversity Santo overcame just to play every day should have been part of the discussion about whether he belonged in the Hall of Fame.)
I was at Wrigley Field on Sept. 28, 2003, when the Cubs retired Santo’s No. 10 jersey and the old third baseman, stung by years of rejection by the Baseball Hall of Fame voters, told the sellout crowd, “This is my Hall of Fame.” It is a shame Santo had to settle for a jersey retirement ceremony during his lifetime, but at least he is finally getting his true due. Better late than never, I suppose, even though the timing of Santo’s election will never feel right.
Nevertheless, I’m certain that up in that great Field of Dreams in the sky, Santo is clicking his heels with happiness one more time. Now the Cubs need to win a World Series so his soul may forever rest in peace.