Admittedly, I did hate his announcing style. If he had one. He didn’t belong in the broadcast booth, and I wasn’t shy about voicing my opinion on that. I couldn’t understand the affection Cubs fans had for him, beyond his playing days. But like ketchup on a hot dog, acknowledging that you aren’t a Santo worshiper is enough to leave at least half the population of this town horrified.
This morning, Ron Santo was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. One year after his death. And he deserves to be congratulated. Unfortunately, every single person awarded such an honor deserves to be congratulated while they’re still here. Ron wasn’t afforded that opportunity.
I lived in Pittsburgh during the 1990’s, also known as the Bill Mazeroski Hall of Fame Hand-Wringing Era. Every year, around this time, fans would begin their campaigns for getting Maz elected to The Hall. And it wouldn’t work. I remember Maz leaving the Pirates’ spring training facility one year in tears because he had failed, once again, to make the cut. It seemed everyone who knew anything about baseball, except for those charged with the actual voting, felt he belonged there. But how could I have a dog in this race? To this day, I have yet to see more than ONE play Bill Mazeroski ever made: The 1960 World Series-clinching home run at Forbes Field. So every year, I would sit back and let others gnash their teeth over another Hall snub.
Finally, in 2001, thanks in part to a very vocal push from none other than Keith Olbermann, Maz got in. But here’s the big difference: Bill Mazeroski got to enjoy his induction. Maz got to sit on the back of a convertible and circle the warning track at PNC Park, while thousands of fans, myself included (yeah, I jumped on that bandwagon like it was the last stagecoach off the Titanic) cheered like maniacs. I doubt I was the only one in the ballpark that day who had never seen the Maz play, but there are times when you just can’t help being happy for a guy.
Ron deserved to enjoy this as much as Maz did, and every other player in every other Hall of Fame around the world. He doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall this year more or less, than he did last year. I fear his death may be the only reason he was finally elected. And that seems wrong. It’s unfortunate. But he’s in. Cub fans are celebrating globally today, with a tinge of sadness, resentment, and bitterness over the timing. Congratulations to the Santo family. They have always been a class act, otherwise I would be curious to see if they planned on shunning the Hall or welcoming Ron’s addition. They’ll be grateful, but I bet they’ll hold back on some of the things they’d like to say in the next few days.
I hope they put a singed toupee on the bust.