When the Golden Era Committee meets for the first time in 2011 to vote for candidates to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s expected there will be strong and sentimental support for former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, who died Dec. 2.
Santo is deserving of election to the shrine. But voters should do the right thing and elect former Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer and Santo together. To elect one without the other would be an injustice.
The Golden Era Committee will consider players who performed from 1947-72. Boyer and Santo dominated that era as the best third basemen in the National League. Each won the Gold Glove Award five times (Boyer, 1958, ’59, ’60, ’61 and ’63; Santo, 1964, ’65, ’66, ’67 and ’68).
Both were equals as fielders. The same was true as hitters.
Some give Santo the edge because he had more career home runs and RBI than Boyer. But Santo also had almost 700 more at-bats (8,143 for Santo and 7,455 for Boyer). The career numbers:
BOYER: .287 batting average, 2,143 hits, 282 HR, 1,141 RBI.
SANTO: .277 batting average, 2,254 hits, 342 HR, 1,331 RBI.
Much has been written lately about Santo’s Hall of Fame credentials. He qualifies. But it’s imperative that Boyer is seen as equally deserving.
A cover story by Dave Anderson in the 1965 season preview edition of Dell Sports magazine captures how highly regarded Boyer was during his prime. Boyer was named winner of the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1964 when he led the Cardinals to the World Series championship. Dell Sports assigned Anderson to do a piece about Boyer and the Orioles’ Brooks Robinson, with the angle that the duo might be the best third basemen of all-time.
Take a good look this season at Ken Boyer and Brooks Robinson. Appreciate them now, while they’re at their peak. They’re two of the best third basemen in baseball history. Possibly the best ever. Surely they’re the two best ever to compete in the same era.
Many oldtimers consider it heresy to rate any of the current stars as the best ever at their positions. But Ken Boyer of the St. Louis Cardinals and Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles demand such recognition. None of the other current stars have invaded the history of their position the way Boyer and Robinson have at third base.
Anderson interviewed the great Pirates third baseman Pie Traynor, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1948 after excelling as a fielder and hitter (.320 batting average) from 1920-37.
Traynor told Anderson, “Boyer is a steady, great ballplayer. He’s the punch of the Cardinals. If he doesn’t drive in all those runs (119 in 1964), they don’t win the pennant last season. And if he doesn’t drive in runs in the World Series, they don’t win that.”
When Anderson noted Boyer had put together 10 spectacularly steady seasons, Traynor replied, “(Brooks) Robinson must do that. He had a big season last year (1964). But can he keep it up like Boyer?”
Robinson did have a wonderful career with Baltimore and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983, one year after Boyer died of cancer at 51. Now, there is revived support for Santo. Boyer must receive the same.