Unfortunately for Santo, it’s better late than never.

By Chuck Fiebernitz | Jul 12, 2012
Photo by: MLB Ron Santo

Major League Baseball’s annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Sunday, July 22, in Cooperstown, New York.
On July 21, the Hall will present two awards for media excellence — its own Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters and the BBWAA’s J. G. Taylor Spink Award for writers.
The induction class consists of former Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, who was elected by the Veterans Committee and former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, who was elected by the BBWAA.
As for Santo, I can only say one thing ... It’s about time.
Santo played (1960-1974) 14 years for the Cubs and in his career, he belted 342 home runs, drove in 1,331 runs and had a lifetime batting average of .277. He was also in the top five voting for the Rookie of the Year in 1960, and was a nine-time All Star, a five-time Gold Glove winner and finished in the top 10 for the most valuable player award four times.
But since Santo was first eligible in 1979, he has been denied his rightful spot in Cooperstown.
His production on the field was reason enough to place him among baseball’s immortals, and his contributions off the field should have cemented his induction.
But with great sadness for Santo and his family, it took his death and the Veteran’s Committee to  finally elect him (with 15 out of a possible 16 votes in favor) to the Hall of Fame.
What the Veteran’s Committee did was what the Hall voters should have done years ago and that was to give Santo his due.
Still, I must wonder what happened between the end of Santo’s playing days and his death on Dec. 3, 2010, that he suddenly deserves enshrinement?
It’s not as if his statistics have changed. The lobbyists have always been there for Santo, so it’s not as if there was some major campaign for his election.
Unfortunately, the reason Santo was finally elected into the Hall was  he died.
And it’s a shame it didn’t happen while he was alive. But it is what it is and Santo was elected to the Hall posthumously, which makes it seem like a sympathy vote.
Sometimes it takes a death for some to see the truth, and while it’s more than three decades too late, it was the right decision.
Just compare Santo’s stats to a pair of Hall of Fame third basemen.
Boston Red Sox's Jimmy Collins had a .294 batting average with 65 homers. Although he played in the dead ball era, his numbers hardly seem more worthy than Santo’s stats.
Meanwhile, in 15 seasons, Detroit Tigers George Kell had a terrific .306 batting average, but only 78 home runs.
Recently, a Cubbie fan told me that none of that matters today, that it’s all pointless because Santo will finally have his bust enshrined in Cooperstown and his family will enjoy it.
Sorry, I’m not buying that poppycock.
If at all possible, every ballplayer should be elected to the Hall while they are alive.
Each player should be able to experience what has to be one of the greatest thrills of their lives.
But for Santo, he doesn’t get that opportunity to experience that thrill — and neither will all the baseball fans.
It would have been worth the price of admission to watch the ceremony and see the joy on his face during his acceptance speech.
So it will be a bittersweet moment watching the Hall of Fame ceremony on Sunday, July 22.
Unfortunately for Santo, it’s better late than never.

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