Until his posthumous election into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee, longtime Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo was seen as one of the biggest snubs in voting history. At the time of his original eligibility in Hall of Fame voting, Santo received less than four percent of the vote, a far cry from the 75 percent necessary to be elected. This was despite five Gold Gloves at third base and nine appearances in the All-Star game over fifteen seasons in the league.
Santo’s career numbers would be considered respectable today: .277 AVG, .826 OPS, and 342 career home runs despite retiring relatively young at 34. What makes the numbers more impressive, however, is that he played during a primarily low offense era, mostly due to larger strike zones and a higher pitcher’s mound. His defense at third base was also considered top tier, as indicated by the previously mentioned five Gold Glove awards, good for fifth most among third basemen at the time of his retirement.
So what took so long? There were a couple of key factors: Santo didn’t hit the usual 3,000 hit or 500 home run plateaus that made a player primarily known for their offense Hall of Fame worthy. It also didn’t help that he played third base, which was a generally under represented position in the Hall of Fame. At the time of Santo’s retirement, only three MLB third basemen were in the hall. The primary reason for the delay in his election, though, was probably his attitude.
Despite being highly thought after his playing career for charity work and general community involvement, Santo was generally seen as a bit of a jerk when he played. He was apparently difficult to deal with for almost everyone around him and was a bit of a hot head. It also didn’t help that good number of opposing players saw his famous “heel click” as bad sportsmanship and generally disrespectful. With pretty good numbers for his career and a respectable trophy case, what other reason could there have been to deny him for so long?