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New Hall Door Not an Entrance

Santo among those left out again as retooled veterans' committee fails to elect anyone to Cooperstown.

February 27, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

More than a dozen media members crowded into Ron Santo's Scottsdale, Ariz., home Wednesday in anticipation of the call from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and when the telephone rang at 10:30 a.m., cameras, microphones and notepads were poised to capture the moment.

But a hall pass, this wasn't. On the line was Sharon Pannozzo, the Chicago Cubs' director of media relations, who called to inform Santo that neither he nor the other 25 former players and 15 former managers, executives and umpires were elected to the hall by the reconstructed veterans' committee.

"My heart just dropped," said Santo, the former Cub third baseman who hit .300 or better four times, had 342 home runs, 1,331 runs batted in and won five Gold Gloves during a 15-year career from 1960-74.

"I was devastated. I can't even remember what I said to everybody. I was just in a daze."

Others were confused.

"This one is puzzling because it follows all the fanfare about major reforms in the voting system and all the changes," said 85-year-old Marvin Miller, the former players' union chief who was up for election.

"This was supposed to correct a lot of things people objected to, but to go through all those changes and still go through a zero result raises a lot of questions."

Baseball followers have alleged for many years that the 15-member veterans' committee was full of cronyism, basing their endorsement and election of players more on popularity than merit.

Criticism peaked in 2001 when the committee chose Bill Mazeroski, a career .260 hitter known for his superb defense and dramatic game-winning home run in the 1960 World Series.

No coincidence, Joe Brown, Pittsburgh's general manager during Mazeroski's playing career, was the committee chairman for the selection.

So, the hall threw the veterans' committee a changeup. This year, the new panel included 85 eligible members -- the 58 living Hall of Fame players (newly elected Gary Carter and Eddie Murray did not vote), 25 Hall of Fame writers and broadcasters, and two members from the former veterans' committee whose terms had not expired.

Eighty-one ballots were returned. To be elected, a person had to be listed on at least three-quarters (61) of the ballots. But all of the candidates fell short.

Former Dodger first baseman and New York Met manager Gil Hodges came closest, receiving 50 votes and falling 11 votes shy. Former Minnesota hitting star Tony Oliva and National League umpire Doug Harvey each had 48 votes. Santo had 46, former Dodger owner Walter O'Malley had 38, and Miller had 35.

Former Dodger and Angel general manager Buzzie Bavasi had 34 votes, former manager Dick Williams had 33, Yankee Manager Joe Torre, a former All-Star player, had 29, and former Dodger shortstop and leadoff batter Maury Wills had 24.

"I decided that first and foremost, no matter what happened, I was going to be OK," said Wills, the Dodger baserunning and bunting coordinator. "I needed to do that for myself."

After the Dodgers' intra-squad game in Vero Beach, Fla., Wednesday, the team gathered around Wills at home plate and told him, "You're our hall of famer."

Said the 70-year-old Wills: "That meant more to me than anything. If I would have gotten into the Hall of Fame and not had those guys feel the way they feel about me, it wouldn't have mattered.

"That's what matters, being surrounded by people who care about you. That's really what's important."

Under the old rules, the veterans' committee met each year. Under the new system, the committee will pick players every two years and will consider managers, executives and umpires every four years.

"I was more hurt than disappointed, because these were my peers voting," said the 63-year-old Santo, who has had both legs amputated because of complications from diabetes. "I played against a lot of those guys in All-Star games, in the National League. I felt they knew what type of player I was."

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan said voters tried to maintain high standards in making their selections.

"You have to look at it and say, 'Does this guy deserve to be in Cooperstown with the other immortals?' " Morgan said. "I still think the system is going to work well. This is only the first year, and we have to give it a chance."

Jeff Idelson, vice president of communications for the Hall Of Fame, concurred.

"It should be difficult to get in," Idelson said. "The goal is to make it fair, but to also maintain the high standards the baseball writers have always used in their selection process.... You can't say [the new system] is effective or ineffective based on one vote. But you can say the process went smooth and well."

Staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The Vote

The 2003 Hall of Fame voting by the Veterans Committee, including 58 players and 25 members of the media in the Hall and two remaining members from the past committee:

PLAYERS' BALLOT

81 of 85 ballots submitted; 61 votes needed; none elected

Gil Hodges 50, Tony Oliva 48, Ron Santo 46, Joe Torre 29, Maury Wills 24, Vada Pinson 21, Joe Gordon 19, Roger Maris 18, Marty Marion 17, Carl Mays 16, Minnie Minoso 16, Allie Reynolds 16, Dick Allen 13, Mickey Lolich 13, Wes Ferrell 12, Ken Boyer 11, Don Newcombe 11, Curt Flood 10, Ken R. Williams 8, Rocky Colavito 7, Elston Howard 6, Bob Meusel 6, Bobby Bonds 5, Ted Kluszewski 4, Thurman Munson 4, Mike G. Marshall 3.

COMPOSITE BALLOT

79 of 85 ballots submitted; 60 votes needed; none elected

Doug Harvey 48, Walter O'Malley 38, Marvin Miller 35, Buzzie Bavasi 34, Dick Williams 33, Whitey Herzog 25, Billy Martin 22, Bill White 22, Bowie Kuhn 20, Gabe Paul 13, August Busch 11, Paul Richards 10, Charley Finley 9, Phil Wrigley 9, Harry Dalton 6.

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