Although Ron Santo is currently best recognized for his emotional color commentary on the Chicago Cubs WGN radio broadcasts, his 14 years spent as the team’s third baseman made him one of the best in the business.
The Seattle native rushed onto the scene at Wrigley Field finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year Award voting at just 20-years-old.
His following year began a string of 11 consecutive seasons playing no less than 154 games, including a stretch of five straight Gold Glove Awards from 1964-1968.
Santo also became baseball’s first third baseman to collect more than 300 home runs (342) and five Gold Gloves, a feat later matched by Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt.
What’s also noteworthy of Santo’s baseball career is his introduction of the batting helmet’s ear flap. During the 1966 season Santo suffered a broken cheekbone after being hit by a pitch.
He later returned wearing a protective ear flap on his batting helmet, thus the ear flap became a staple on all batting helmets thereafter.
Perhaps Santo’s best season came during 1969 when the right-handed batter posted a .289 avg., 29 HRs and 123 RBIs.
However, the Cubs suffered a late season collapse against the New York Mets and failed to make the post-season, a black mark that haunts Santo to this day.
It’s a crime the nine time All Star is not in baseball’s Hall of Fame when considering his career numbers: .277 avg., 1,138-R, 342-HRs, 1,331 RBIs and the 5-Gold Gloves.
The Hall’s Veteran Committee denied Santo induction by a mere eight votes in 2005, he later fell five votes short in the 2007 voting. Santo’s next chance for the Hall of Fame is during 2009.
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