Ron Santo made history on Dec. 5 – twice. Both times, he forever changed the baseball landscape.
The most recent change came a year ago this week, when Santo was immortalized with his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame’s Golden Era Committee named Santo on 15 of its 16 ballots on Dec. 5, 2011, making Santo the 296th member of the Cooperstown shrine. Santo became just the 12th major league third baseman elected to the Hall of Fame.
In his 15-year big league career with the Cubs and White Sox, Santo hit .277 with 342 home runs and five Gold Glove Awards.
“The numbers are there and they always have been there,” said Hall of Famer Billy Williams, who was Santo’s teammate for each of Santo’s 15 seasons with the Cubs. “But there are intangible things that you talk about. That’s why he got 15 of 16 votes.”
Santo battled juvenile diabetes for his entire playing career, and later became a tireless fundraiser in the search for a cure. Santo lost his battle with diabetes when he passed away on Dec. 2, 2010.
As Santo’s playing career wound down, he would make history on another Dec. 5 – this time in 1973. On that day, Santo became the first player to invoke the new “10-and-5” rule, a right negotiated into the Basic Agreement which allows players who had been in the major leagues for at least 10 years and with the same club for at least five years to veto any trade. The Cubs wanted to trade Santo to the Angels, but Santo did not want to leave his Chicago home.
Instead, the Cubs later traded Santo to the cross-town White Sox, with whom Santo played one season before retiring.
After his playing career, Santo entered the business world before becoming a beloved Cubs broadcaster for more than 20 years. Thousands of Cubs fans gathered in Cooperstown on July 22, 2012, to celebrate his induction into the Hall of Fame.
“This is what Ron wanted and so I’m happy he got what he wanted,” said his widow Vicki Santo, who was at the Induction Ceremony on behalf of her husband. “I’m happy he will always be known as one of the greatest players of all time.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum