Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Can we now move on with Santo, or will some seek the holdout voter?

For those whose view of Chicago is limited to the North Side, it was a day to rejoice. Ron Santo, the one-time Chicago Cubs third baseman-turned-broadcaster, got into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Ceremonies marking his induction will be held this summer, along with those for the other ballplayers and broadcasters who wind up getting into “the Hall” this year.

NOW I HAVE written before that I do not “get” all the hysteria from people with regards to Santo. Personally, I think he falls short of what ought to be a Hall of Fame ball player. Perhaps all those panels of the past got it right in rejecting him.

But this is not a diatribe against Santo. He’s in, and a part of me is relieved that I no longer have to listen to Chicago Cubs fans with a sense of self-torture rant and rage and whine and wail about the “great injustice” that was being done to the man who once had his own brand of frozen pizzas on the market.

Nor is this going to be a diatribe about an injustice being done on one-time Chicago White Sox outfielder Minnie Miñoso – who also was considered for the Hall of Fame, but fell three votes short.

For the record, there were 16 people who had a vote in Monday’s selection, and they were to pick from a panel of eight former ballplayers and two baseball executives. Anyone who got at least 12 votes (75 percent) was in.

SANTO WAS THE only person to reach that standard. He got 15 people to pick him, while Miñoso only got nine – as did long-time New York baseball favorite Gil Hodges.

I’d like to think that Santo gets in, and we can now “move on” from the constant diatribes about what a catastrophe it is that Santo does not have a bronze plaque honoring him in the Hall of Fame’s museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Perhaps it means that Santo’s place in Chicago baseball history is to be the North Side equivalent of Nellie Fox – the one-time White Sox second baseman who had his own struggle to get immortalized in the professional baseball world.

How many remember his 74.7 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in 1985? The same Veterans Committee that made Santo a Hall of Famer on Monday ultimately inducted Fox in 1997.

WHICH MANY OF you have probably forgotten about by now. Because he’s “in,” and nobody really seems to think much about how it happened.

I’d like to think that will be the fate of Ron Santo. He can now be thought of as a Hall of Fame ballplayer somehow superior to his peers in the 1960s – even though his ballclub’s on-field performance sure wouldn’t reflect the fact that they had so many “immortals.”

With the exception of 1969 (which in and of itself is a failure, they lost to the New York Mets – managed by Hodges), the Cubs were a weak team despite having Hall of Fame talents such as Ernie Banks at shortstop (later first base), Billy Williams in the outfield, Fergie Jenkins pitching AND Santo clicking his heels after the occasional Cubs victory.

Then again, he did hit his share of home runs (342 during his career), which seems to influence some people into thinking that Santo was the best third baseman of his era; over Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles and the Boyer brothers – Ken of the St. Louis Cardinals and Clete of the New York Yankees.

I GOT MY kick out of seeing that while Santo got 15 of the 16 possible votes, Ken Boyer got so few votes that the Hall of Fame wouldn’t even officially confirm a figure.

But my doubts about Santo’s standards (too heavily influenced by the fact that I remember his abhorrent end-of-career stint with the White Sox) seem to be in the minority. He’s in.

So will Cubs fans have the sense to celebrate, relax, and move on? I’m skeptical.

A part of me wonders how many people are going to complain about the fact that this could not have occurred while Santo was still alive. Could that become the new perennial gripe for Chicago Cubs fans (who don’t seem to care at times how dismally their ballclub plays on the field)?

IF THAT WERE a legitimate factor, then perhaps we should be arguing about why Miñoso did not get into the Hall. He’s still alive – albeit aging. Who’s to say he’ll still be around when the Veterans Committee gets around to considering ballplayers from his era (1947-72) in another three years?

Or will their gripe be that one of the 16 people who had a chance to vote “yes” for Santo decided not to.

A Chicago Cubs fan-style lynch mob in search of the infidel who doesn’t respect the memory of Ron “Oh noooooooo” Santo.

If Cubs fans got as concerned about their team’s performance on the field as they have about Santo’s Hall of Fame chances throughout the years, perhaps ballclub management would have felt pressure to bring a championship to the Humble Abode of one Elwood J. Blues.


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