Chicago Cubs: An honor greater than Cooperstown
When Santo first became eligible for election in 1980, he received less than four percent of the ballots cast by the BBWAA (Baseball Writers’ Association of America), which resulted in his removal from the ballot.
Following widespread complaints regarding overlooked candidates, Santo was one of the names added back on the ballot in 1985. Over the course of the next 13 years, his vote total increased during 10 of them until he received 43 percent on his final year on the ballot in 1998.
Santo’s next Hall opportunity came in the form of the Veteran’s Committee, which elected players to the Hall of Fame retired for over 20 years. Santo finished third in 2003, tied for first in 2005, and first in 2007 and 2009. However, each of those years, Santo still fell short of the required number of votes and nobody was elected for induction.
Disappointed by being bypassed by the Hall of Fame again, the Cubs retired Santo’s No. 10 jersey on September 28, 2003, the day after the Cubs won the National League Central Division title. He became only the third player in franchise history to be honored behind former teammates Ernie Banks (No. 14) and Billy Williams (No. 26).
During the ceremony, while addressing the cheering Wrigley faithful, the ever-optimistic and emotional Santo told the fans, “This is MY Hall of Fame!” When watching his number fly on the flagpole, below Ernie Banks’ number, he stated, “There is nothing more important to me in my life than this happening to me. I’m a Cubbie. I’ll always be a Cubbie.”