MLB Hall of Fame: Their mortality brought them immortality

PITTSBURGH, PA - CIRCA 1976: Dick Allen #15 of the Philadelphia Phillies and Willie Stargell #8 of the Pittsburgh Pirates stand next to each other during an Major League Baseball game circa 1976 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Allen played for the Phillies from 1963-69 and 1975-76. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - CIRCA 1976: Dick Allen #15 of the Philadelphia Phillies and Willie Stargell #8 of the Pittsburgh Pirates stand next to each other during an Major League Baseball game circa 1976 at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Allen played for the Phillies from 1963-69 and 1975-76. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Ron Santo

Santo was a 15-year veteran who held down third base at Wrigley field in Chicago’s North Side for virtually all of that time. He batted .277 with 342 home runs, closing out his playing days in 1974 with the cross-town White Sox. In retirement, he dabbled in private business before returning to Wrigley Field as part of the team’s radio booth.

Despite his numbers, Santo never seemed to catch the enthusiasm of the BBWAA voters. In 15 elections between 1980 and 1998, he annually garnered between 20 and 40 percent, enough to be considered but nowhere near enough for induction.

He fell off the ballot in 1998, peaking at 43 percent. When  the hall’s Veterans Committee met in 2004, Santo and Gil Hodges were the leading candidates for induction, both with 52 votes. But that fell eight votes short of the necessary number.

Two years later, Santo again led the veterans ballot, this time drawing 70 percent support and missing by just five votes. By now, the effects of a lifetime fighting diabetes were taking their toll. Santo, 66, had lost one leg to the disease and would soon lose his other.

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What turned out to be the last vote of his lifetime took place in 2009. Again Santo led the veterans ballot, and again he fell maddeningly short of election, this time by nine votes. In December of 2010, mortality came to Santo. In his next year of eligibility, 2012, a restructured veterans committee enshrined him with 94 percent of the vote.