It seems inadequate to try to evaluate Ron Santo’s rightful place in baseball’s pantheon by simply examining numbers. His place in the hearts of several generations of Cubs fans is secure for reasons that may have begun with his sterling statistics from the 1960’s, but ultimately ended up being colored nearly as much by his more-difficult-to-quantify role as Cubbies cheerleader in chief.
Such is the nuance that comes into play when the mythology of being a diehard Chicago Cubs fan collides headlong with the starker realities of the modern game, a century of quashed dreams and epic disappointments and the seeming unfairness that surrounds his 20 years of dashed hopes for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.
Wherever you happen to come down in the debate about Ron Santo and his exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s hard not to feel a good deal of sadness and sympathy in his passing the other day.
After being rejected by the writers in 15 years on the BBWAA ballot over nearly a 20-year span – he actually fell off the ballot for four years after getting a dispiriting 4 percent tally in his first year of eligibility in 1980 – he then suffered the indignity of four whiffs with various configurations of the Veterans Committee.
With each disappointment, including ending up with the highest total (61 percent) in 2007, the anguish seemed to increase, with public pronouncements from Santo and his supporters escalating with each vote.
If his comments after that last vote seemed more resigned, they may have reflected little more than a cumulative impact from nearly 30 years of trying. “I thought (the disappointment) was going to be harder to deal with,” Santo said in 2007 as he fell short by nine votes. “I’m just kind of fed up with it. I figure, ‘Hey, it’s not in the cards.’
“But, I don’t want to go through this every two years,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s ridiculous.”
At the time he also indicated that he didn’t want end up a posthumous inductee.