They've been close. One is a nine-time MLB All-Star. Another is a two-time hoops gold medalist who averaged 18.2 ppg in 16 NBA seasons. The last finished his career as the NFL's eighth all-time leading rusher. Yet ex-Cub Ron Santo, ex-Warrior Chris Mullin and ex-Cardinal Ottis Anderson can't get any HOF love. And it's driving their biggest fans crazy. That's why Kerry Wood, Diana Taurasi and Edgerrin James are making the case for their heroes here. Pay attention, voters, because no one knows who's Hall-worthy better than those trying to get there.
Cubs Closer Kerry Wood on … Ron Santo
"The Hall of Fame vote and Ron Santo are talked about a lot in our clubhouse. He's been denied 18 times, and after each vote we'll look at his stats and ask, 'Are these Hall of Fame numbers?' You'll get a yes from 95% of the guys. When you start digging into the numbers, I don't think there's any doubt. How can you not vote for a guy who was a nine-time All-Star, earned five Gold Gloves, had four top-10 MVP finishes, three top-10 home run finishes and four .300-plus seasons, and led the National League in walks four times? And if you look at all the third basemen who played between 1950 and 1975, Ron ranks second in HRs, third in hits, RBIs and games played, fourth in slugging, and seventh in on-base percentage. And he did it despite having diabetes. For him to play in the big leagues at that level is amazing.
"For some reason, third basemen get jobbed in the voting. There are only 13 of them—three Negro Leagues stars and 10 major leaguers. Nothing personal, but if George Kell is in [see chart], then Ronny should be too. Ronny crushed him in HRs, RBIs, hits and runs, and he did it with a respectable .277 career batting average, which is almost 25 points higher than the NL average during his career. I'm not saying Brooks Robinson doesn't belong in the Hall, but Ronny played eight fewer seasons and finished with 74 more HRs, a higher batting average and on-base percentage, and nearly the same RBI total. I know, Ronny never played in the postseason. Neither did Kell or Ronny's Hall of Fame teammates Ernie Banks and Ferguson Jenkins. Neither did Billy Williams when he was with the Cubs.
"I keep it simple: Look at the third basemen who are in, then look at Ronny's numbers. I'm amazed he isn't in yet. His next chance is in 2009. When it happens, and if the schedule lets us, I'm going to be there for the ceremony. He's the epitome of Chicago baseball. He's still part of this team. He lives and dies with it. In fact, I think we've put him in the hospital a few times. He should get in just for that."
Mercury Guard Diana Taurasi on … Chris Mullin
"What stands out is that Mullin played at the highest level in every stage of his career. At St. John's, he dominated the Big East, winning conference Player of the Year three times and national Player of the Year as a senior. He took Golden State to a different level with his scoring and led them into the playoffs. And he won two gold medals, which is huge for a basketball player.
"At 6'7'', 215 pounds, he revolutionized the small forward position. He averaged more than 25 points per season for five straight seasons playing alongside Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond. You can see how Mullin could get overshadowed in an era with Jordan, Magic, Bird, Pippen and Barkley. But on the Dream Team he fit right in. And if you look at his career stats, if those aren't Hall of Fame-worthy, I don't know what is. He should definitely be in."
Cardinals Tailback Edgerrin James on … Ottis Anderson
"I was always chasing Ottis' single-season yardage record when I was at the University of Miami, and I got it. But now I'm with the Cardinals, and Ottis is the all-time leading rusher here. I don't know if I could ever make it that far.
"Running back is the toughest position on the field. Some people can do it well for a year or two, maybe three, but to do it for an extended period of time—that's what I look at. Yardage is the No. 1 thing. To get 10,000-plus yards, like Ottis, is really tough. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in five of his first six seasons in the NFL and had only three fumbles in 748 touches from 1987 to 1992. That's big-time. It's tough to take all those hits and not put the ball on the ground. Also, he moved from the Cardinals to the Giants and won two Super Bowls—and was MVP of the second one.
"Just look at the way the league's going now. With all the teams using two-back systems, it's going to be even tougher to reach 10,000 yards. There's going to be a greater appreciation for backs like Ottis in the years to come. After my generation, you won't see many players with all those yards. Which means you won't see players like Ottis."