Homer Happy: Ron Santo
Ron Santo was money in the bank for the Chicago Cubs. For eight consecutive seasons – from 1963 through 1970 – Santo hit no fewer than 25 home runs and drove in no fewer than 94 runs.
And by the way, during that same eight-year period, Santo averaged 160 games per season … and collected five Gold Gloves.
The best all-around third baseman of the 1960s? Ron Santo probably was. He maybe wasn’t the fielder that Brooks Robinson was over in the American League (though he came closer than anyone else). But Robinson couldn’t match Santo’s offensive productivity. And no other third baseman in baseball hit as many home runs during the 1960s.
Santo was signed by the Cubs in 1959 and found his way into the Cubs’ lineup a year later, batting .251 as a 20-year-old rookie. He hit nine home runs in his rookie season, 23 in 1961, and 17 in 1962. Then, in 1963, Santo hit 25 homers – and wouldn’t hit any fewer than that total until 1971.
By 1964, Santo had established himself as the National League’s premier third baseman. He batted .313 that season and led the league with 13 triples, 86 walks and a .398 on-base percentage. He also hit 33 doubles and 30 home runs with 114 runs batted in.
Santo banged out 30 or more home runs each season from 1964-1967. He had 98 or more RBIs in seven seasons, and topped 170 hits four times. For a power hitter, Santo was unusually disciplined with his strike zone. He led the National League in bases on balls four times, and accumulated 70 or more walk in nine seasons.
Santo closed out the 1960s with one of his best seasons. He batted .289 that year with 29 home runs and a career-best 123 RBIs, second most in the National League. His productivity as a power hitter declined over the next three seasons as he averaged 19 home runs and 80 RBIs from 1971-1973. He spent the 1974 season – his fifteenth and last in the major leagues – on the South Side of Chicago with the White Sox. As a part-time infielder, Santo batted .221 with five home runs and 41 RBIs.
Santo retired with a career batting average of .277 with 342 home runs and 1,331 runs batted in. He was a member of the National League All-Star team nine times during his career.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.