When Ron Santo’s surviving spouse gives the speech Sunday to accept his membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., he will become the second member of the 1974 Chicago White Sox to gain such immortality.
The first, of course, came a few years ago when relief pitcher Rich Gossage gained admission to the Hall of Fame. Gossage was in his third year in the major leagues that year, although showing signs already of how overpowering he could be.
WHICH WAS THE exact opposite of the Santo career in baseball – which spent so many years with the Chicago Cubs, then gained one last season playing in Comiskey Park.
Where the White Sox faithful greeted the ol’ heel-clicker with banners reading, “Welcome to the Major Leagues, Ron Santo!”
It was a final year of a career that may or may not have ended prematurely due to what we now know was Santo dealing with the physical effects of diabetes.
It should not be a shock that he was basically a utility infielder for the White Sox – backing up Mexico Baseball Hall of Fame member Jorge Orta and Bill Melton. A .221 batting average, only 5 home runs and 41 runs batted in, and 72 strikeouts in 117 games played.
HIS WHITE SOX stint has nothing to do with him being in the Hall of Fame. Which is a large part of why I personally have problems getting all excited about his candidacy, and will be glad to see the Santo hoopla come to an end.
For what I remember firsthand was that final season, which came at about the time I started following professional baseball on a regular basis. Much of the Cubs time was just before my time, and from what I read it seems that the Boyer brothers (Ken of the St. Louis Cardinals and Clete of the New York Yankees) were regarded as the top third basemen of that era.
I don’t see either of them getting admitted to the Hall of Fame anytime soon.
But Ron’s in. I’m sure it’s the highlight of this year for Chicago Cubs fans, and personally I’m more curious to see if the White Sox can snatch back first place on Sunday with a win against the Detroit Tigers.
AND PERHAPS I’LL reminisce a bit more about that ’74 ballclub, which was one of the first I remember following.
For as it turns out, that ballclub had another player whom the new-school stat geeks like to tout as a potential Hall of Fame pitcher. None other than Jim Kaat, who in that season had a 21-win, 13-loss record with a 2.92 earned run average and 142 strikeouts in 277 1/3 innings pitched.
Whodathunk that the 80-win, 80-loss ball club (compared to 66-96 for the Cubs that season) would have the potential for three Hall of Famers – and none of them would be named Dick Allen?