Ron Santo: Wikis

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Ron Santo

Third baseman
Born: February 25, 1940 (1940-02-25) (age 69)
Seattle, Washington
Batted: Right Threw: Right 
MLB debut
June 26, 1960 for the Chicago Cubs
Last MLB appearance
September 29, 1974 for the Chicago White Sox
Career statistics
Batting average     .277
Home runs     342
Runs batted in     1,331
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Ronald Edward Santo (born February 25, 1940 in Seattle, Washington) is a former professional baseball player.[1 ][2] He played the majority of his Major League Baseball career as the regular third baseman for the Chicago Cubs before playing his final year with the Chicago White Sox.[1 ] Santo was a productive player despite suffering from diabetes, a condition which he carefully concealed for 80% of his career; it eventually necessitated the amputation of both of his legs.[3 ]

Contents

Major League career

Santo was drafted as an amateur free agent by the Chicago Cubs in 1959, and made his debut on June 26, 1960.[1 ] [4] In 1961 he set a Cubs record with 41 double plays at third base, breaking the previous mark of 33 set by Bernie Friberg in 1923. In 1962 he led the National League in assists for the first time with 332, setting the team record for assists as third base, breaking the mark of 323 set by Randy Jackson in 1951. Santo continued to lead the National League in assists every year through 1968, breaking Ned Williamson's major league record of leading the league six times; Brooks Robinson went on to lead the American League eight times. Mike Schmidt eventually tied Santo's National League mark of seven. In 1963 Santo broke the modern National League record with 374 assists at third base, passing Tommy Leach's 1904 mark of 371. In 1966, he set the all-time league record with 391, the previous record being Billy Shindle's 382 in 1892; his total was 99 higher than that of league runner-up Ken Boyer. Santo broke his own record in 1967 with 393 assists,[5 ] which remained the National League record until Schmidt posted 404 in 1974. He also finished fourth in the 1967 National League Most Valuable Player Award voting results.[6] Santo's assist totals from 1963 through 1968 were the sixth highest by an National League third baseman between 1905 and 1973. He also led the National League in putouts every year from 1962 through 1967 and again in 1969, tying the league record shared by Pie Traynor and Willie Jones in leading the league seven times;[7 ] Tim Wallach later tied the mark as well.

In 1969, Santo and the Cubs were in first place in the National League East for 156 days, before going 9-17 in their final 25 games, while the New York "Miracle" Mets went 37-11 in their final 48 games.[8] During that season, the Cubs sent their entire starting infield, including Santo, to the All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.; he and Cubs shortstop Don Kessinger started for the National League team.[9] Santo finished the season with a .289 batting average, 29 home runs and a career-high 123 runs batted in (RBI), and finished fifth in the National League Most Valuable Player voting.[1 ][10]

During the 1969 season, Santo became known for performing a heel click after a game on June 22, 1969, against the Montreal Expos.[3 ][5 ] Going into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Expos were leading 6-3. With one out, second baseman Paul Popovich hit a single, and moved up to second base after another single by left fielder Billy Williams. Although Santo grounded out for the second out, Popovich and Williams each moved up a base. Then a future Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, first baseman Ernie Banks, singled to bring home Williams and Popovich and bring the Cubs within a run. Rick Bladt substituted as a pinch-runner for Banks. That set it up for Cubs right fielder Jim Hickman, who hit a 2-run walk-off home run to win the game 7-6.[11] When Hickman reached home plate, Santo was so excited that after congratulating him by bear hugging and pounding him on his head, Santo ran down the third base line and jumped three times, clicking his heels on each jump.[3 ][5 ] The next day, Santo walked into manager Leo Durocher's office; Durocher asked him to keep clicking his heels whenever the Cubs won at Wrigley Field to motivate the team. Santo continued this after every home win. However when the Cubs began their September skid, Santo discontinued the heel click routine. His final "click" was performed on September 2, the last Cub home victory while still in first place. During and after the season's collapse, Santo never again performed the heel click, as Cub critics decried the routine as being synonymous with the overconfidence that many feel destroyed the Cubs 1969, "No one can stop us" season.

Santo became the first player to invoke the ten-and-five rule under the collective bargaining agreement signed after the 1972 Major League Baseball strike (the rule allows players with ten years' service, the last five with the same team, to decline any trade).[5 ] The Cubs had agreed upon a deal to send Santo to the California Angels; the ballclub would have received in return two young pitchers: Andy Hassler, who went on to have a middling career as a reliever/spot starter, and Bruce Heinbechner, a very highly-regarded left-handed pitching prospect. Santo didn't want to play on the West Coast and vetoed the deal.

The Cubs still wanted to trade Santo, and since his preference was to stay in Chicago, they worked out a deal with the White Sox, acquiring catcher Steve Swisher, and three young pitchers: Jim Kremmel, Ken Frailing, and one of Santo's future co-broadcasters, Steve Stone. [4] Santo's stay on the South Side was miserable, and for him, mercifully brief. The White Sox already had a third baseman, Bill Melton, so Santo was relegated mostly to designated hitter duty, which he hated. He wanted to play in the field, but White Sox manager Chuck Tanner wouldn't bench Melton (who, to be fair, had had a couple of 30 home run seasons for them), so he tried Santo at second base, where, with no experience, he only embarrassed himself. Worn down by his disease, away from his familiar home at Wrigley Field, and finishing 1974 with a .221 batting average and only 5 home runs, Santo retired from baseball at the age of 34.[1 ]

Major League career statistics and honors

Retired number at Wrigley Field

Santo was nine-time National League All-Star, and led the league in walks four times, in on base percentage twice and in triples once.[1 ][7 ] He hit for a .300 average and hit 30 home runs four times each,[5 ] and is the only third baseman in major league history to post eight consecutive seasons with 90 (RBI) (1963-1970).[1 ][7 ] The winner of five consecutive Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence (1964-1968),[12] he set or tied National League records by leading the league's third basemen in total chances eight times, in games, putouts and assists seven times each, and in double plays six times;[5 ][7 ] from 1966 to 1974 he held the National League record for assists in a single season. He also set National League records for career assists (4,532), total chances (6,777) and double plays (389) at third base, all of which were eventually broken by Mike Schmidt between 1986 and 1988; his National League total of 2,102 games at third base fell 52 short of Eddie Mathews' league record, and he then ranked sixth in National League history in putouts (1,930) and ninth in fielding percentage (.954).

Santo led the league in double plays six times (1961, '64, '66–'68, '71), tying the major league record held by Heinie Groh;[7 ] Schmidt also later tied this record. He led the National League in total chances every season from 1961 through 1968.[7 ] He appeared at third base in every Cubs game from April 19, 1964 through May 31, 1966, establishing a league record with 364 consecutive games at the position;[5 ][7 ] his 164 games at third base in 1965 remain the major league record.

He was the second player at his position to hit 300 career home runs, joining Eddie Mathews, and also ended his career ranking second to Eddie Mathews among third basemen in slugging average (.464) and third in runs batted in (1,331), total bases (3,779) and walks (1,108). Santo broke Mathews' National League record of 369 career double plays at third base in 1972, and in 1973 he broke Mathews' league records of 4,284 assists and 6,606 total chances. Schmidt passed Santo's record for double plays in 1986, his record for assists in 1987, and his mark for total chances in 1988. During his 14-season run with the Cubs, Santo hit 337 home runs, then the eighth most by a National League right-handed hitter; his 1,071 career walks with the Cubs remain the team record for a right-handed hitter. He was the first third baseman to hit 300 home runs and win five Gold Gloves, a feat since matched only by Schmidt.

Santo became the first player in major league history to wear a batting helmet with protective ear flaps, when in 1966, in the midst of trying to break the Cubs' modern consecutive-game hitting streak record of 27 games (set by Hack Wilson in 1929), Santo was sidelined for nearly two weeks following a pitch thrown by the Mets' Jack Fisher (beaning) that fractured his cheekbone and ended his consecutive playing streak. When he returned (and broke the hitting record with a 28-game streak[5 ]) he was wearing an improvised ear flap on his batting helmet in order to protect the injury; ear flaps have since become standard equipment on batting helmets.

On September 28, 2003, Santo's jersey #10 was retired by the Cubs organization, making him the third player so honored behind his teammates Ernie Banks (#14) and Billy Williams (#26).[13] Other prominent Cubs had worn #10 after Santo's retirement, notably Dave Kingman and Leon Durham; the most recent wearer had been interim manager Bruce Kimm, just the previous year. In April 2004, Santo was inducted into the inaugural class of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (Washington's high school athletics league) Hall of Fame as a graduate of Seattle's Franklin High School.[14]

Career Hitting[1 ]
G AB H 2B 3B HR R RBI SB BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
2,243 8,143 2,254 365 67 342 1,138 1,331 35 1,108 1,343 .277 .362 .464 .826

Hall of Fame controversy

Ron Santo was honored alongside the retired numbers of the Chicago Cubs in 2003.

When Santo first became eligible for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980, he was named on less than 4% of all ballots cast, resulting in his removal from the ballot in subsequent years; he was one of several players re-added to the ballot in 1985 following widespread complaints about overlooked candidates, with the remainder of their 15 years of eligibility restored even if this extended beyond the usual limit of 20 years after their last season. After receiving 13% of the vote in the 1985 election, his vote totals increased in 10 of the next 13 years until he received 43% of the vote in his final year on the 1998 ballot, finishing third in the voting behind electee Don Sutton and 2000 inductee Tony Perez. Following revamped voting procedures for the Veterans Committee, which elects players retired for over 20 years, Santo finished third in 2003, tied for first in 2005, and again finished first in voting for the 2007 and 2009 inductions, but fell short of the required number of votes each year. Santo's next opportunity for admission will come in voting prior to the 2011 inductions.

Although Santo has become a widely supported candidate for selection, his initial poor showing in balloting has been attributed to various factors, including a longtime tendency of Hall voters to overlook third basemen; at the time Santo retired, only three of the over 120 players elected were third basemen. Also, the fact that Santo's best years occurred in the 1960s, when offensive statistics were relatively lower than in many other eras (due to an enlarged strike zone and raised pitcher's mounds, among other things), has been cited as a factor that has led voters to perhaps overlook him.[15] [16] Another possible reason that has been suggested is that voters have not focused sufficiently on Santo's high walk totals and defense. These aspects of play are perhaps more valued by sabermetrics--newer methods of evaluating a baseball player's productivity—than they have been by Hall of Fame voters in the past. For example, Santo's career On-base plus slugging (OPS+), (calculated as the sum of a player's on-base percentage and slugging percentage) to the league average, would rank him exactly in the middle of the ten major league third basemen currently in the Hall of Fame. [16][17]

One argument that has been raised against Santo’s Hall of Fame candidacy is that his batting statistics, over the course of his career, were significantly better at home than on the road. He hit 216 of his 342 home runs at home, and only 126 on the road. [18] His career batting average at home was .296, versus .257 on the road. [18] However, there have been several players elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America, such as Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, and Kirby Puckett, who batted significantly better in their home parks than they did on the road.[19][20][21][22] Hall of Famers with a significant differential between their home numbers and road numbers in terms of home runs include Mel Ott (323 homers at home and 188 on the road), Frank Robinson (321 at home, 265 on the road), Jimmie Foxx (299 at home, 235 on the road) and Hank Greenberg (205 at home, 126 on the road).[23][24][25][26] Others have also commented that two Cubs who were in their prime during Santo’s prime years have already been honored by the Hall of Fame (Ferguson Jenkins and Billy Williams), and the team also featured a third Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks, who was arguably past his prime, yet the team never won a pennant. However, the late 1960s Cubs were far from the only team in baseball history with multiple Hall of Famers that did not win a pennant or a World Series.

Santo also fell short of such traditional standards of Hall election as 3,000 hits and 500 home runs; however, by the time his career ended, only two third basemen (Brooks Robinson and Lave Cross) had even collected 2,500 hits, and only one (Eddie Mathews) had reached the 500-home run plateau.[27][28][29][30] Bill James, a notable statistical guru who has ranked Santo among the 100 greatest players of all time (sixth among third basemen), believes his election to the Hall of Fame is long overdue.

Although disappointed at being bypassed, on the day his jersey number was retired by the Cubs, the ever-optimistic and emotional "old Cub" told the cheering Wrigley Field crowd, "This is my Hall of Fame!"[7 ] [31] During Sandberg's Hall of Fame acceptance speech in 2005, he echoed his support for Santo's selection, saying, "...for what it’s worth, Ron Santo just gained one more vote from the Veterans Committee."[32] On April 19, 2007, the Illinois House of Representatives adopted HB 109 (Cross), urging the Veterans Committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame to elect Ron Santo to the Baseball Hall of Fame. [33]

Post retirement

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Broadcast career

Santo joined the Cubs' broadcast booth in 1990 as the WGN radio color commentator.[3 ][34] He works with play-by-play announcer Pat Hughes, and these radio broadcasts are also known as the Pat and Ron Show. He has also worked with Harry Caray, Thom Brennaman, Steve Stone and Bob Brenly. Santo also briefly worked with Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers commentator Wayne Larrivee. He also does commercials for Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating, which he endorses. In Chicago, Santo is known for his unabashed broadcast enthusiasm, including groans and cheers during the game. As excitable as Santo is when a great play for the Cubs occurs, he is equally as vocal in his displeasure.

Struggle with diabetes

In the early years of his playing career, he carefully concealed the fact that he had type 1 diabetes. He feared that if this information were to become known, he would be forced into retirement. Because the methods of regulating diabetes in the 1970s were not as advanced as they are today, Santo gauged his blood sugar levels based on his moods.[35] If he felt his blood sugar was low, he would snack on a candy bar in the clubhouse.[35]

As part of the publicity surrounding "Ron Santo Day" at Wrigley Field on August 28, 1971, he revealed his struggle with diabetes. He was diagnosed with this disease at the age of 18, and was given a life expectancy of 25 years. Santo has had both his legs amputated below the knee as a result of his diabetes: the right in 2001 and the left in 2002. Santo shares a bond in this respect with 2008 Cub rookie Sam Fuld, who also suffers from type 1 diabetes.[36] In 2004, Santo and his battle against diabetes was the subject of a documentary, This Old Cub. The film was written, co-produced and directed by Santo's son Jeff.

Charities

Santo has been endorsing the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's annual Ron Santo Walk to Cure Diabetes in Chicago since 1974, and has raised over $50 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). In 2002, Santo was named the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's "Person of the Year". [31] Santo also inspired Bill Holden to walk 2,100 miles from Arizona to Chicago, to raise $250,000 for diabetes research.

See also

External links

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Ron Santo at Baseball Reference
  2. ^ Ron Santo at Baseball Almanac
  3. ^ a b c d Ron Santo at the Baseball Library
  4. ^ a b Ron Santo Trades and Transactions at Baseball Almanac
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Ron Santo at The Baseball Page
  6. ^ 1967 National League Most Valuable Player Award voting results at Baseball Almanac
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Ron Santo at the Baseball Hall of Fame
  8. ^ Ron Santo: A Hall of Fame Plaque In His Future? by Bill Dray, Baseball Digest, July 1992, Vol. 51, No. 7, ISSN 0005-609X
  9. ^ 1969 All-Star game at Baseball Reference
  10. ^ 1969 Most Valuable Player Award voting results at Baseball Reference
  11. ^ June 22, 1969 Expos-Cubs box score at Baseball Reference
  12. ^ National League Gold Glove Award winners at Baseball Reference
  13. ^ Chicago Cubs retired numbers at mlb.com
  14. ^ Hall of Fame - at the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association
  15. ^ Ranking the Third Basemen at The Baseball Page
  16. ^ a b The Hall of Fame Case for Ron Santo at The Cub Reporter
  17. ^ Career Leaders & Records for Adjusted OPS+
  18. ^ a b Ron Santo Home-Away splits at Baseball Reference
  19. ^ Carl Yastrzemski Home-Away splits at Baseball Reference
  20. ^ Wade Boggs Home-Away splits at Baseball Reference
  21. ^ Jim Rice Home-Away splits at Baseball Reference
  22. ^ Kirby Puckett Home-Away splits at Baseball Reference
  23. ^ Mel Ott home run log at Baseball Reference
  24. ^ Frank Robinson home run log at Baseball Reference
  25. ^ Jimmie Foxx home run log at Baseball Reference
  26. ^ Hank Greenberg home run log at Baseball Reference
  27. ^ Hall Debates: Ron Santo at ESPN.com
  28. ^ Brooks Robinson at Baseball Reference
  29. ^ Lave Cross at Baseball Reference
  30. ^ Eddie Mathews at Baseball Reference
  31. ^ a b Ron Santo Uniform Number to be Retired at Baseball Almanac
  32. ^ www.chicagotribune.com
  33. ^ Illinois General Assembly HB 109
  34. ^ Chicago Cubs Broadcasters
  35. ^ a b Santo, Jeff. (2004). This Old Cub. [DVD]. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.  
  36. ^ "Daily Herald". http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=146449. Retrieved 2008-06-25.  

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