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Hall of Fame snub wounded Ron Santo deeply

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Billy Williams (from left), Ron Santo and Ernie Banks at Daley Center Plaza in 2008.


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I've got Cubs media guides going back a long way, and the covers of them are cheerful and hopeful (as they need to be).

Then there's the 2005 cover, and it's kind of sad.

I don't mean sad by design; I mean sad by exclusion.

Above the words ''Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame Legends'' are Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Ernie Banks and Ryne Sandberg, all of them smiling, wearing Cubs jerseys from their respective eras, holding bats or, in Fergie's case, a red-seamed National League baseball.

Where is Ron Santo-

Probably out shouting his eternal love for the Cubs.

I vote for Hall of Fame inductees, and I'm not certain what it takes to qualify for that grand museum. Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron belong, obviously. As do Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken Jr. and Rickey Henderson. If not, then what have we got-

But Santo falls into the gray area with many other wonderful players. Splendid but not mind-boggling. Stunning but not legendary. How do you vote- One World Series championship -- heck, one pennant -- and Santo would have been in the Hall. In a flash.

But voters have refused to take four players from the ill-fated 1969 Cubs team. Neither Ernie nor Billy nor Fergie nor Ronnie ever won a ring with any team. Ever.

And so the sadness is twofold.

First, beloved Ron Santo, dead at 70, was grievously wounded by being a Cub.

Second, if he somehow is voted into the Hall, the passionate man, who dreamed of the honor, never will know it.

*EVERYBODY HAS his or her Santo story.

I have a bunch, but here are four.

1. During a late-season WGN radio broadcast a few years ago, Santo was so inflamed about a developing beanball situation that he said the umps were going to ''knock that s--- off right now!''

There was a long silence afterward. Not even broadcast partner Pat Hughes knew how to smooth over that one.

Eventually Santo, with a sweet edge in his voice, picked up as though nothing had happened. And the FCC never fined anyone.

2. At an away game last season, Santo was standing with a hot dog in the cafeteria just off the press box. Somebody bumped into him, and Santo wavered back and forth ominously and nearly fell over, taking all kinds of stuff with him. The man who bumped into Santo walked off, unaware of it all, oblivious to the fact the man he had hit was wearing two prosthetic lower legs, a toupee and his heart on his sleeve.

3. I looked at Santo one day at Wrigley Field and noticed he was taller than I was. And he never had been before.

''Cowboy boots, Ron- '' I asked.

''Nope,'' he replied cheerily. ''New legs.''

4. I saw him click his heels in 1969 after a victory. Not on TV. At Wrigley Field. Live. Down the left-field line.

And it was just so sweet.

*I LIKE DREW BREES as Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.

He has been a gentleman champion through everything: near-career-ending surgery, hurricane damage, mother's suicide, media overload.

Good choice.

*TIGER WOODS is playing quality golf this weekend.

I still have no interest in him.

*THE MOST FAMOUS female boxer in history, Christy Martin, 42, was stabbed and shot by her husband, Jim, 66, two weeks ago after she told him she was leaving him for a woman.

The Martins had been married for 18 years, and who knows what went on during that time.

Christy survived the assault, by the way, and Jim was arrested and charged with attempted murder after being at large for almost a week.

What I can say for sure is that I saw Martin fight in Las Vegas a number of years ago, back when women's boxing was still controversial and arguably depraved, and she was the first woman I had witnessed anywhere who hit like a man.

*I HAVE STOPPED wondering when NCAA Division I football players, academic types or even Congress will revolt against the total professionalization of elite college football.

Because it'll never happen.

But here's some fodder for the cattle to ruminate on:

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, according to a report by USA Today, will get more than $4.2 million in bonuses and future contract guarantees just by having his Ducks play for the BCS national championship.

If his team -- excuse me, he himself -- wins the title, Kelly will get a quarter-million dollars more.

This comes at a time when union employees at Oregon are in the second year of furloughs and school president Richard Lariviere has taken a 4.6 percent pay cut.

Sheep are sheep, you know.

And wolves are wolves.

And politicians are easy to buy off.

But the unpaid players- Amazing.

*THINKING OF THIS, I believe that certain-to-be Heisman Trophy-winning Auburn quarterback Cam Newton's only mistake was letting his mercenary dad get out of hand.

Pop Newton reportedly wanted anywhere from $100,000 to $180,000 for his son's college services.

When you underbid, you always end up with problems.

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