Monday, December 5, 2011

Santo's Second Fondest Wish Comes True

     Today's announcement that Ron Santo has finally been elected to the Hall of Fame was more bitter than sweet, coming as it did a year after Santo passed away. Many observers have cited Santo as the most deserving player not yet in the Hall, a wrong that will be righted come induction day next summer. Alas, the honor will be too late for Santo himself to enjoy it.
     Santo was easily the best National League third baseman of his day and one of the best of all time. He was a nine-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glover, and four times finished in the top ten in MVP balloting.
     For the period of 1964 through 1969, Santo had the highest WAR (wins above replacement player) in the major leagues—better than Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, or anyone else. His figure of 45.7 means that the Cubs won that many more games with Santo in the lineup than they would have won with an average player in his place. By that measure, Santo was the most valuable player in the major leagues over the six-year period.
     Santo the broadcaster is better known than Santo the player, at least to fans under the age of 45 or 50. He spent two decades in the Cubs' radio booth, teamed first with Thom Brennaman and Bob Brenly, and then, for 15 years, with Pat Hughes. As a broadcaster, Santo was a mirror for the feelings of his listeners in good times and bad. No one was more delighted than Santo when the Cubs won, and no one was more disappointed when they lost.
     His election to the Hall of Fame makes Santo's second fondest wish come true. His fondest wish was to see the Cubs win the World Series.

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