By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Vicki Santo is a better person than I am. She was Sunday, at least.
I normally don’t care much for Hall of Fame induction speeches, whether they be by the former players or coaches or executives being inducted or those they’ve chosen to speak about them on their enshrinement. With a few exceptions, the speeches tend to be fairly cookie cutter in variety.
“So-and-so is/was not just a great athlete but a great man. He’s the best friend/dad/husband/masseuse one could ask for. (Throw in a few vanilla jokes.)”
“I am/was extremely fortunate/blessed. I wouldn’t be here without my family and/or a mentor. I loved the game I played. (Cry.)”
But I had great anticipation for Mrs. Santo’s speech for her late husband and former Chicago Cub third baseman and broadcaster. Was she going to take a shot at the Baseball Hall of Fame for the annual gut punch it gave her, her husband, and so many Cubs fans for so long and—at least for me—the slap in the face of letting Ron Santo in the holier than thou museum right after he died?
She took the high road, which initially disappointed me for selfish reasons. “Skewer them bastards!” I yelled at the TV. (I yell at my TV because I’m an idiot like that.) I was all Gny. Sgt. Hartman about it. “Pvt. Santo, why are you not stomping the Hall of Fame’s guts out?!” The best I got was her saying she was sorry Ron wasn’t there and that she’d rather have him giving the speech.
After listening to the speech a few times, though, I’ve gained much respect for her and understand that she went the correct route, even if I certainly would not have. Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons tweeted Sunday “Vicki Santo’s speech is the most touching and inspirational of any HOF address I have ever heard.” I agree. A few tears were shed, I won’t lie. Still…
Those who follow me on social media or can remember all the way back to when I was carrying the Who Ya Crappin’? segment Thursdays at 5 p.m. on 670 The Score know that I was always very critical of Ron Santo’s broadcasting and loathed the Baby Huey approach he took to calling a Cubs game. I continue to be critical of Santo’s replacement, Keith Moreland, who calls a game both ways, Country and Western. (I wanted Dave Otto to take over after Santo’s death, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Despite my distaste for Santo’s work in the booth as well as his open pining for induction in the Hall that became tiresome if not downright annoying, I always believed he was worthy of enshrinement and that it was a shame he was denied year after year. I am still disgusted with the way the process was handled and will continue to be with other players. Sure, Ron Santo wasn’t the most affable guy on the field, and his famous heel-clicks rankled the opposition and several crusty writers. It’s not the Hall of Congeniality, though, and voters have never seemed to provide equal footing for every candidate and have let personal feelings supercede logic.
My frustration with the repeated no vacancy signs was nothing compared to the anger I felt when it was apparent those involved were merely waiting for the man to die before removing the velvet rope for him.
And I’m still pissed off. And I wanted Vicki Santo to be pissed off. She actually may have been, but she chose not to show that. I wanted her to exact vengeance for me. I wanted her to punch Bud Selig in the nuts when taking a picture with Ron’s plaque. (I understand Selig has little if anything to do with the voting process, but any opportunity one has to punch him in the nuts is an advantage that should be taken.) She didn’t, and I’m comfortable with that.
She emphasized that Sunday was “a happy day” and “not a sad day.” Not for me it wasn’t. The 10 lb. elephant in the room—the absence of the man on the plaque—was too heavy for any positives people were pretending the day was about. The day merely reiterated what a haughty pack of jackasses the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Veterans Committee are, all of whom got to sit back and silently say, “We have the power, and we will play you like a marionette if we wish.”
Vicki Santo asked us to treat her late husband’s enshrinement as a celebration, and she talked about Ron being an inspiration to so many. Points like that gave the speech, to me at least, very much a funereal tone. We’ve all heard eulogies that stress celebrating the enduring effects of someone’s life rather than focusing on the finality death. Those may be momentary opiates, but at the end of the day we still realize someone is dead, and that just doesn’t feel good or fair.
Sunday may have been a great day for many Cubs fans and even the Santo family, even if they likely privately cursed the whole thing. I certainly was cursing it aloud and will continue to do so.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget, but please don’t follow him in real life. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.