Chicago Cubs

Ron Santo takes his place in Hall of Fame

578222.png

Ron Santo takes his place in Hall of Fame

Updated: 8:15 p.m.

DALLAS There wasnt any middle ground with Ron Santo. It was either joy or agony.

This was the missing piece for Santo and his family and friends. This is where the Cubs believe he belongs, even if the timing was bittersweet.

You wont get any argument from teammates who admired his toughness, or the fans who loved listening to him on the radio, or the kids who benefited from the 60 million he helped raise for juvenile diabetes research.

One year after his death, Santo was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Golden Era veterans committee. He received 15 out of 16 votes from the panel, an overwhelming consensus after so many years of frustration.

The choice was revealed on Monday at the winter meetings, inside a Hilton Anatole ballroom. Back in Arizona, Santos widow Vicki could imagine him on the couch pumping his fist.

We dared to dream this because it was so important to Ron and such a long time coming, Vicki said. Im just a believer in what was meant to be. Unfortunately, it didnt happen during his lifetime. But this is going to continue his legacy.

Santos retired No. 10 flies at Wrigley Field, and he was resigned to that being his Hall of Fame. This time he needed 12 votes for induction Jim Kaat (10), Gil Hodges (nine) and Minnie Minoso (nine) were among the nine who were denied.

Billy Williams a great friend and teammate since Double-A ball in San Antonio, where they drew the eye of Rogers Hornsby in 1959 emerged as a leading voice on the committee. Their statues face each other outside Wrigley Field. Now Santos place in Cooperstown is also secure.

I think he would click his heels, Williams said. I know that he would rejoice. He was the kind of guy (who) was real high and real low. (Hed) really rejoice on the good things, (but) when he didnt do so well, hed get too down on himself (and) beat himself (up) in the clubhouse.

But I think after the news (today hed) say, Jesus Christ, I waited a long time, but now I made it. Im just going to enjoy it. Hed probably have a glass of red wine.

A nine-time All-Star, Santo could match almost anyone from his era. During his 15-year playing career (1960-1974), only Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Williams also reached 2,000 hits, 300 homers and 1,300 RBI.

It was long overdue and thats why its bittersweet, said Andre Dawson, who was on the ballot nine times before getting into Cooperstown. Ronnie and I just always talked about the Hall of Fame and the battles that he would have, how his perspective on life had changed and how through all of this he was still able to be so humble.

Besides Santo, Mike Schmidt is the only other third baseman to have more than 300 homers and five Gold Gloves. Yet the Baseball Writers Association of America was never really impressed, giving him between 3.9 and 43.1 percent of the vote during his 15 years on the ballot.

Ive been pulling for him for a long time, said Brooks Robinson, another Hall of Fame third baseman. I really couldnt quite figure it out why he hadnt gotten in through the writers.

I asked a few guys on our committee and youd always hear things about how (the Cubs) never won, which might be a part of it. Clicking his heels might be a part of it and you have three guys off his team in the Hall of Fame and they werent putting anyone else in.

Who knows? He certainly has the statistics to stack up against anyone in the Hall of Fame.

In the final analysis, Williams said Santos off-the-field contributions influenced the committee. Santo promoted the game for 21 seasons on WGN, Cubs fans laughing and groaning along with him on the radio. He also became a tireless fundraiser and inspiration for those with diabetes.

Sometimes were measured by what we do off the field, Williams said. This is what Im most proud of (beyond) all those numbers he put up on the board: He never did complain. (He) went out and played the game as it should be played.

Linda Brown, Santos daughter, didnt want to use the word bittersweet, because now his grandchildren will have a place to visit, to see what he meant to so many people.

Santo didnt stop when his legs were amputated years ago. He died at the age of 70 on Dec. 3, 2010, in an Arizona hospital from complications with bladder cancer. There is some symbolism in how the final chapter was written.

The class of 2012 will be inducted on July 22, and theyll be telling their favorite Santo stories all over again.

It was always his dream, Vicki said. To even have it come after his passing, it just shows you cant give up. And thats what Ron was all about.

Joe Maddon thinks Ben Zobrist getting ejected would be a sign of the apocalypse

Joe Maddon thinks Ben Zobrist getting ejected would be a sign of the apocalypse

As the rest of the world readies for the upcoming solar eclipse on Monday, Joe Maddon is thinking about the apocalypse.

That's because Ben Zobrist very nearly got ejected from a ballgame Wednesday night, something that seemed essentially impossible just a few days ago.

When Zobrist squared around to bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning, he was peppered with a 96 mph fastball right on the leg. The Cubs veteran was initially awarded first base — which would've loaded the bases with nobody out — but then was called back by first base umpire Chris Conroy who insisted Zobrist did not pull back his bunt and thus the pitch was a strike.

Maddon raced out and very quickly got ejected from the game. He admitted it was the angriest he'd been in a Cubs uniform.

Zobrist also was giving the umpiring crew an earful about such a crucial play in a crucial spot of a tie game.

Zobrist was not ejected and the Cubs eventually won two batters later, but had the game continued, Zobrist would've had a tough time controlling his anger moving forward.

Envisioning Zobrist getting ejected elicited laughter from Maddon, who said it would've been more entertaining to see Zobrist get tossed than Kris Bryant's ejection last month.

"This would've been really good," Maddon said. "Because he would've had like contrived anger after the fact. Had the game continued, I really believe something may have occurred that we've never seen before. 

"You got the eclipse coming up Monday. You got Zobrist arguing with an umpire and possibly getting kicked out and an eclipse within three or four days. That's where you worry about the apocalypse at that point."

Zobrist is one of the most mild-mannered players in the game and has never been ejected in his 12-year career. Maddon always says that whenever Zobrist is actually arguing with umpires, he must really have a point, especially on a religious day like Sunday.

However, the well-respected 36-year-old just had an issue over the weekend where he struck out looking in Arizona to end the game and petitioned hard for robot umps and an electronic strike zone.

"It keeps happening to Zo, of all people," Maddon said. "I mean, Zo does not deserve this. If any baseball player does not deserve that kind of inequities, it's him. 

"Listen, I really believe had I not done that and the game ended differently, you might've seen Zo's first ejection."

It was Maddon's second ejection of the season and he expects to get fined after laying into the umpires 15 minutes after the game ended in his media session. 

He said he has no grudges to carry over into Thursday and doesn't anticipate the umpires will, either.

Wednesday's ejection reminded Maddon of the time a few years ago when he "ejected" three umpires from a game on the South Side of Chicago when he was managing the Tampa Bay Rays.

But he doesn't get tossed as much now with instant replay really cutting down the need to argue.

"That thing yesterday is not reviewable," Maddon said. "So when it's not reviewable, that's where you could get upset. Check swings, hit by pitch in that situation. There's not a whole lot to get angry with anymore.

"Balls and strikes? But it's so hard to argue balls and strikes from the side [in the dugout]. I can see up and down; I can't see in and out. I'm really wrong a lot on in and out, so I don't even say anything anymore. And so again, it's just about moments like that that are not reviewable, those are the ones that I think can create a little bit of a stir.

"But it doesn't happen that often. I'm not looking for it just to go argue. I just thought it was egregiously bad yesterday."

There is currently a report filed with the league about the incident, though that is standard procedure for any ejection.

Maddon said twice during his postgame rant Wednesday that he's "playing nice in the sandbox" with the league. When asked about what he meant by that, he gave a cryptic answer:

"There's other things that nobody's aware of that I've been playing nice in the sandbox about."

Fuming over ninth-inning call, Joe Maddon is done with playing nice in MLB sandbox: ‘That’s asinine’

Fuming over ninth-inning call, Joe Maddon is done with playing nice in MLB sandbox: ‘That’s asinine’

A walk-off win in the middle of a pennant race didn’t dull the edge in Joe Maddon’s voice, the Cubs manager blasting Major League Baseball and expecting to be fined for his rant in the Wrigley Field interview room.    

“That’s asinine,” Maddon said after Wednesday night’s 7-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, fuming over the ninth-inning at-bat where Ben Zobrist showed bunt and got drilled by Wandy Peralta’s 96-mph fastball. Home plate umpire Ryan Blakney signaled for Zobrist to jog to first base, only to have first base umpire Chris Conroy call strike two.

“Listen, I don’t even know what to say about that call,” said Maddon, who stormed onto the field and got ejected for the second time this season. “We’ve had different things happen, and I’ve been playing really good in the sandbox. Really good. And I’m not right now. That call cannot be made under those circumstances.

“I can understand if the guy’s actually swinging, and all of a sudden you get like a check swing. But he’s bunting – and then trying to get out of the way – and you’re going to call a bunt?

“There’s no way any hitter under those circumstances – with the ball coming at his thigh – is going to bunt through it and then get hit in the thigh.

“That really almost did cost us the game. Fortunately, we came back, they made their wild pitch. But I’ve been playing good in the sandbox. That was wrong.”

Zobrist – who called for an electronic strike zone after watching a controversial strike three end Saturday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field – still managed to put the ball in play, move up Javier Baez and Jon Jay and keep the pressure on the last-place Reds.  

“I tried to pull the bat back, but there was nowhere for me to go,” Zobrist said. “It started right at me, and was going down towards my ankle, and I could not physically pull it back and still pull my ankle up at the same time. I tried to pull my ankle up and (Conroy) thought I was offering at it, apparently.”

Imagine the reaction if the Cubs hadn’t regrouped and maintained a 1.5-game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.

“I know that instant replay is not perfect,” Maddon said. “But all this little minutia needs to be looked at as we move this along, because that impacted the game. That’s bases loaded, nobody out. It’s a different at-bat for (Albert) Almora. It’s a different thought for their pitcher. Everything’s different. The world rotates differently at that point.

“To influence a game like that is wrong. And, listen, the guy’s a good guy. I think he’s a good umpire. But I’m not going to concede consistently to these guys. You can’t make that mistake.”