There are only a scant few amount of major leaguers who have amassed careers worthy of Hall of Fame contention, but who sit out nonetheless. Shoeless Joe Jackson, Pete Rose, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire are among the small fraternity, and they all have two major themes in common: issues of personal honesty and integrity of the game. Whether it was taking money or banned substances, betting on games or the gullibility of investigators, their careers are overshadowed by deliberate attempts to undermine the sport at which they excelled.
But there exists one inexplicable pariah, and that is one Ron Santo, who was once again denied Hall of Fame membership today by the odious Veterans Committee. Santo received 39 of the 64 ballots, the highest total of any player this year, but still far short of the 48 needed for Hall of Fame enshrinement. Santo was never a black eye on the sport, and the only performance-enhancing drug he was taking regularly was insulin. He batted .277 for his career, belting 342 home runs and 1341 RBI in an era best known for its dominant pitching. Oh, and Santo collected five Gold Gloves at a position where defense was of premier importance.
And yet he languishes outside the hall, continually passed up while less deserving candidates walk in instead. Case in point this year is the election of Joe Gordon, a mildly remarkable second baseman who happened to play on some great teams. He batted .268 with 253 home runs and 975 RBI, themselves fine numbers, we suppose, but all of which are vastly inferior to Santo. Gordon earned no Gold Gloves.
Ron Santo hasn’t got much time left with us. He has already lost both legs to the diabetes that plagued him through his playing career, and there’s really not much his body can offer to the disease before his candle flickers out. He has been an icon of one of baseball’s most popular franchises for his entire life, remaining in Chicago for his entire career before providing the Cubs his spirited, wildly biased radio commentary from the booth even without the legs to get him up there.
To send Santo to his grave without the acknowledgment that his career was among the very best in baseball history–indeed, few finer ambassadors for a franchise have ever set foot on a diamond–would be a travesty of the highest order and a darker spot on baseball than anything Pete Rose or Victor Conte could have conjured up.
Shame, shame on Major League Baseball today.