On Monday, Cooperstown finally came calling.
The barrel-chested third baseman who clicked his heels in victory was elected to the Hall, overwhelmingly chosen by the Veterans Committee nearly a year to the day after his death.
“It’s really exciting because so many years that we had parties over to his house in spring training saying this is the year,” said Hall of Fame teammate Billy Williams, a member of the voting panel. “The one thing, of course, is he’s not here to enjoy it, but his family will. He long awaited this, and we’re all happy. I know I’m happy, his family is happy, the fans of Chicago are happy.”
Santo was a nine-time All-Star, hit 342 home runs and won five Gold Gloves. He was a Cubs broadcaster for two decades, beloved by the home crowd for the way he eagerly cheered for his favorite team on the air, hollering “Yes! Yes!” or “All right!” after good plays and groaning “Oh, no!” or “It’s bad” when things went wrong.
Shortly after the announcement, Santo’s flag – white with blue pinstripes, plus his name and No. 10 – was flying from the center pole atop the scoreboard at Wrigley Field.
“There was always kind of a missing piece of the puzzle of Cubs’ history,” team owner Tom Ricketts said.
Santo breezed in with 15 votes from the 16-member panel that met at baseball’s winter meetings. It took 75 percent – 12 votes – to get chosen.
Santo died Dec. 3, 2010, from complications of bladder cancer at age 70. He had diabetes, which eventually cost him both legs below the knees, and he worked tirelessly to raise millions for research into the disease.
Williams was on the line when Santo’s widow, Vicki, got the congratulatory phone call.
“Ron has passed, but it was always his dream, to even have this come to him after his passing. It just shows you can’t give up,” she said in a conference call from Arizona.
Santo will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 22, along with any players elected by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Jan. 9. Jack Morris joins Barry Larkin and others on that ballot.