Ron Santo: Top Ten Highlights of One Cubbie's Hall of Fame Career
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With Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies scheduled for this weekend, much attention is being lavished on Barry Larkin, who was voted into the Hall by the Baseball Writers of America. But Larkin won’t be alone this weekend. He will be joined posthumously by Ron Santo, who was voted to join Larkin in the Hall by the Veteran’s Committee.
Santo died in 2010 after struggles with cancer and diabetes, but he is long remembered by many—Cubs fans especially—as one of the greatest third basemen of the 1960s.
Looking back over Santo’s illustrious career, ten moments stand out as shining lights in his tenure in the bigs.
10. June 26, 1960: Ron Santo made his MLB debut as a 20-year-old third baseman for the Chicago Cubs. Though he didn’t know it at the time, he would spend the next 14 years as the everyday third baseman for the Cubs, eventually being chosen in some polls as the best Cub third baseman of all time.
9. October 1960: After the season, Santo garnered national attention by finishing fourth in the NL’s Rookie of the Year voting. The winner that year? Future All-Star slugger and multi-season home run champion, Frank Howard. Not bad company.
8. July 1963: In 1963, Santo appeared in his first of nine career All-Star games. He belted a hit in his only at-bat that game, an RBI single that drove in an insurance run powering the NL to victory, 5-3.
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7. September 1964: On the last day of his fifth season with the Cubs, Santo laid claim the NL triples title with a total of thirteen in 1964. In addition, it was also the first of a number of seasons in which Santo would lead the league in walks and on-base percentage.
6. October 1964: At the close of 1964, Santo was awarded his first of five straight gold gloves by baseball writers, recognizing his exceptional fielding at third base.
5. September 1965: Santo set a Cubs record by playing in 164 games for the team. The most interesting aspect of this record? The season had been scheduled to be only 162 games long!
Even more interestingly, Santo fell just one game short of the single-season record for games played, which had been set just three years earlier: Maury Wills played 165 games while playing for the ’62 Dodgers.
Post-season games don’t count for regular-season statistics, but the Dodgers and the Giants played three extra regular season games in 1962 after the two teams finished with equivalent records and needed some way to determine which squad would take the pennant.
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4. July 1969: The sixth of Santo’s nine All-Star game selections was particularly poignant to Santo, as all four members of the Cubs’ starting infield—including the aging legend Ernie Banks, who would be making his final appearance—were selected to the NL team.
The National League squad won easily that year, beating the A-L 9-3.
3. April 1990: The year after the Cubs take their final NL East title, Santo, who is the self-proclaimed “Single Biggest Cubs Fan of All Time,” joins the Cubs’ broadcast team as a radio announcer sixteen years after his retirement from Major League Baseball as a player. He and Harry Caray were known as the voices of Chicago for a generation of Cubs fans.
2. September 2003: At the close of the 2003 season, Ron Santo’s number 10 was retired by the Cubs, and is only the third number so retired by the team. In 2005, Santo would publicly go on to say of the Cubs’ retired numbers club, “This is My Hall of Fame!”
1. December 2011: Though it occurred one year after he passed on, in December 2011, Ron Santos was posthumously inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame. He was voted in by a Golden Era committee of his peers, including Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal, and Brooks Robinson, who are all players whom Santo competed against.
In baseball, as in life, there is little greater honor than the respect of one’s opponents – and now, Santo will be remembered as having such for the rest of time.
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