Friday, December 3, 2010

Remembering Ron Santo

Many memories of Ron Santo have been flooding my mind today. Whether I was in high school doing homework on a Sunday afternoon, driving home late one October night to catch the end of a playoff game, or waiting in my car for a wedding to start on a hot July day, I can still hear Santo's voice expressing his passion for the Cubs.

If I were to describe Santo as a Cubs' radio analyst, I'd have you picture the most rabid sports fan you know. The type of fan who has a blind and undying love for the team and its players; and nearly lives and dies with the team's every play. That was Ron Santo. He was the ultimate Cubs' fan in the booth. 

But Ron Santo was also a great baseball player. How great? Well, some people think it's up for debate. Santo wasn't voted into the Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but many people say he should have been. One of those people is ESPN's Jayson Stark, who makes a strong case on his blog. Here's an excerpt from his book, The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History:
Ron Santo was almost certainly the greatest all-around third baseman of his time. Name ANY other third baseman from the 1960s you would rather have run out there than Santo. Maybe Brooks Robinson, if you ate a lot of crabcakes. And there's a case to be made for Ken Boyer, a similar player whose Cardinals teams at least finished first once in a while. But I'd still take Santo. Of the 23 third basemen who got to the plate 3,000 times during Santo's 15 seasons, he led all of them in homers, RBIs, runs scored, extra-base hits, walks and times reaching base. Only Dick Allen and Eddie Mathews outslugged him -- but Allen was so awful defensively, he had to be moved to first base, and Mathews was done as a full-time player by the mid-'60s. Finally, let's put Santo's eight straight seasons of at least 25 homers and 90 RBIs in perspective. From the end of World War 2 through the end of Santo's career, only two players at ANY position had streaks longer than that: Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. This was not an age where 40-homer, 125-RBI seasons were as prevalent as bad sitcoms. So the only fair way to evaluate Santo's numbers is from the perspective of HIS time, not our time.

Ron Santo might not be in Cooperstown yet, but he's already in Cub Nation's Hall of Fame. He's been there a long time, and we won't forget his legacy. 

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