Ron Santo elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

December 5, 2011 (CHICAGO)

A little more than one year after his death, the Cubs icon is finally headed to Cooperstown.

Ron Santo's election comes after many years of falling short of the votes needed for the Hall of Fame. Monday morning, the Veterans Committee made it official.

Somewhere in Baseball Heaven, Santo is clicking his heels at third base.

Finally, after all these years, a man who bled Cubbie blue more than any other player has gained entrance to baseball's most hallowed ground. He was elected by the Hall's Veterans Committee in results that were announced at baseball's Winter Meetings in Dallas Monday.

Santo was a nine-time all-star who hit 342 home runs and won five gold gloves.

There were many years when Santo waited at his Arizona home during the off-season to see if he was going to join Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins in the Hall. That call never came.

Santo suffered for many years from diabetes that claimed both his legs below the knee and then claimed his life when he passed away at age 70 on December 3 of last year. He played 14 seasons with the Cubs and one for the White Sox, and he stayed close to his beloved Cubbies as a broadcaster, hoping to win a World Series.

Santo's lifelong friend and teammate, Billy Williams talked Monday about No. 10 joining him in the Hall.

"Some people brought out a lot other than numbers for Ron Santo, talked about what he did for the community," said Williams, a member of the voting panel. "The numbers are there. ... I think they looked at it with a different view, saying this guy should be in the Hall of Fame."

The shame of it all is that Santo passed away one year and two days before he was elected.

"I've got tears in my eyes writing this: congrats to the Santo family on Ron's election to MLB Hall of Fame. A good day to be a Cub fan," tweeted Chicago-area rocker Billy Corgan, frontman for the Smashing Pumpkins.

Twelve years ago, Santo was named to the Cubs "All-Century Team" and his No. 10 was retired in September of 2003. But it was the Hall of Fame that he cherished entrance to.

Twelve votes from the Veterans Committee were needed; Santo received 15 from the 16-member panel.

Former White Sox great Minnie Minoso was three votes shy this time.

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. Bernie Williams joins Jack Morris, Barry Larkin and others on that ballot.

Santo never came close to election during his 15 times on the BBWAA ballot, peaking at 43 percent -- far short of the needed 75 percent in his last year of eligibility in 1998.

Santo had come close in previous elections by the Veterans Committee. The panel has been revamped several times in the last decade, aimed at giving a better chance to deserving candidates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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