Chicago Cubs: Standing up for a team he loved
Santo was notable for being the first player to do several things that are standard in today’s game.
In 1966, he was the first player in Major League history to wear protective earflaps on his batting helmet.
In the midst of trying to break the Cubs’ modern-day consecutive games hit streak record (27 by Hack Wilson in 1929), Santo was sidelined two weeks after a beanball, thrown by Mets pitcher Jack Fisher, fractured his cheekbone, which ended his consecutive games streak. When he returned, he broke the hitting streak record and the helmet flaps have since become a league standard.
In 1973, Santo became the first player to invoke the 10-and-5 rights rule under the new collective bargaining agreement signed after the 1972 strike. The rule allowed players with ten year’s service, the last five with the same team, to decline any trade.
The Cubs tried to trade Santo to the California Angels for two young pitchers. However, Santo didn’t want to play on the West Coast and became the first player to exercise the new rule and vetoing the trade.
With the Cubs still trying to trade Santo, and since his preference was to stay in Chicago, the two sides worked out a deal with the White Sox in December of 1973. The Cubs acquired four players in exchange for Santo, one of which was one of Santo’s future co-broadcasters with the Cubs, Steve Stone.
The trade ended Santo’s tenure with the Cubs but was able to remain in Chicago, the adopted city he loved so much.
The White Sox already had a third baseman in Bill Melton so Santo was delegated as the team’s designated hitter, a role which he hated because he wanted to be in the field. He finished the season with career lows, hitting five home runs and batting for only a .221 average.
After the season, he hung up his cleats, retiring after 15 seasons at the age of 34.