BY MICHELLE MILLER
Fans of Cubs third baseman Ron Santo can bask in the glory of his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend.
The Chicago Cubs and the Hall of Fame invite fans to attend a celebration of Santo’s career on the eve of his induction. Festivities will take place on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown.
Fans are encouraged to join members of Santo’s family, former teammates and Cubs representatives as they look back on his life and share some of their favorite stories of the Cubs player, from on and off the field.
Santo, a nine-time All-Star who had 342 home runs and five Gold Glove awards, earned election into the Cooperstown shrine in December by the Golden Era Committee . All but one of the 16 members on the Golden Era Committee, which considered eight former players and two executives whose contributions were most significant from 1947- 72, voted for Santo. Candidates needed to earn 75 percent to earn election, or 12 votes. Jim Kaat came the next closest, garnering 10 votes. Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso each finished with nine votes and Tony Oliva had eight. Buzzie Bavasi, Ken Boyer, Charlie Finley, Allie Reynolds and Luis Tiant each received fewer than three votes.
Santo, 70, died from complications of diabetes and cancer a year before the announcement.
All visitors in Cooperstown are welcome to attend the celebration on Saturday. A suggested $10 donation, with proceeds benefiting the Hall of Fame and Cubs Charities, will be accepted at the door. Tickets will not be pre-sold.
Santo’s love affair with the City of Chicago lasted more than 50 years.He began his big league career in 1960 with the Cubs. In 14 seasons with the Cubs and his final season with the White Sox, Santo hit .277 with 1,331 RBIs. He lead the league in walks four times.
Santo is just the 12th big league third baseman to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
Following his playing career, Santo served as an analyst on Cubs radio broadcasts on WGN for 21 seasons. He became one of the most beloved sports personalities in Chicago.
The Saturday gathering is just one event scheduled by the Cubs organization for fans to celebrate Sato’s induction. The franchise also plans to host a corresponding induction ceremony viewing party at Wrigley Field’s Captain Morgan Club on Sunday and hold Ron Santo Day at Wrigley Field for the Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals game July 27, the team’s first home game following Santo’s induction.
According to a Cubs media release, the club will honor Santo with a pregame ceremony featuring members of his family. The first 10,000 fans in the gate will receive a commemorative Ron Santo Hall of Fame Plaque courtesy of PNC Bank, while commemorative memorabilia will be also available for purchase from corporate partners such as Majestic and Chicago Kernel Gourmet Popcorn. The team has partnered with Scotts to incorporate an honorary design into the outfield grass of Wrigley Field for that afternoon’s game.
“Ron Santo embodied what it meant to be a Chicago Cub. This franchise couldn’t be prouder as he is enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and we’re honored he will forever represent the Chicago Cubs in Cooperstown,”Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in the release. “Our family looks forward to celebrating this well-deserved accomplishment with Cubs fans worldwide.”
The induction ceremony is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Clark Sports Center.
From her home in Arizona during a conference call after she learned about her late husband’s selection, Santo’s widow, Vicki, said: “It was always so important to Ron and it has been a longtime coming.” She said although her husband was not there with her to share the thrill of his election she knew it would be such an honor for him.
At the time, Vicki said she anticipated giving a speech on behalf of her husband at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and she planned to have it reflect on never giving up. “It was always his dream and to have it happen even after his passing shows you can’t give up and that is what Ron was all about,” she said. Vicki said Santo said he told her he had hoped to get in during his lifetime, but unfortunately that was not meant to be.
“I do find it ironic that the vote happened just a year after his death and that he was the only one selected,” Vickis aid. “I’m a believer in what is meant to be. This is going to continue his legacy of who he was, what he meant with baseball and his friends.”
Perhaps Santo’s best season came in 1969, when Santo hit .289 with 29 home runs and a career-high 123 RBIs. The Cubs led the National League’s East Division for most of the 1969 season before being overtaken by a New York Mets squad.
That season, Santo was on deck during a key Sept. 9 game against the Mets at Shea Stadium. There, a black cat ran around Santo before disappearing under stands and the Cubs soon faded from postseason contention. The Mets went on to win the World Series, beating the Baltimore Orioles in five games.
Santo’s highest vote total from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America was 43.1 percent in 1998, his last year on the ballot. Like fellow teammates Billy Williams, Ferguson Jenkins and Ernie Banks, all enshrined in the Hall of Fame, he never played in a postseason game for the Cubs.
BY MICHELLE MILLER
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