Ron Santo, the barrel-chested Chicago Cubs third baseman, was elected to the Hall of Fame Monday, overwhelmingly chosen by the Veterans Committee nearly a year to the day after he died hoping for the honor.

"It's really exciting because so many years that we had parties over to his house in spring training saying, 'This is the year,' " said Hall of Fame teammate Billy Williams, a member of the voting panel.

Santo, who played in the majors from 1960 to 1974, was a nine-time all-star, hit 342 home runs, and won five Gold Gloves. He was a career .277 hitter.

After his playing days ended, he was a Cubs broadcaster for two decades.

Santo breezed in with 15 votes from the 16-member panel that met at baseball's winter meetings in Dallas. It took 12 votes (75 percent) to be chosen.

Jim Kaat was second with 10 votes, Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso each drew nine, and Tony Oliva got eight on the 10-person Golden Era ballot.

Santo never came close to election during his 15 times on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, peaking at 43 percent, far short of the needed 75 percent, in his last year of eligibility in 1998.

He died Dec. 3, 2010, from complications of bladder cancer at age 70. He had diabetes, which eventually cost him both legs below the knees.

"Ron has passed, but it was always his dream, to even have this come to him after his passing," his widow, Vicki, said in a conference call from Arizona.

Santo will be inducted on July 22, along with any players elected by members of the BBWAA on Jan. 9.

Average salary up 2.7%

The average major-league salary increased 2.7 percent this year to nearly $3.1 million, the largest rise since 2008, the Major League Baseball Players Association said Monday in its annual report.

The New York Yankees had the highest average salary for the 13th consecutive season at $6.54 million. The Phillies were second at $6.44 million, followed by Boston ($5.21 million), the Los Angeles Angels ($4.58 million) and World Series champion St. Louis ($4.47 million). AL champion Texas was 15th ($3.01 million).

Signings

Righthanded reliever Matt Capps and the Minnesota Twins agreed to a $4.75 million, one-year contract. . . . The Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to a $6 million, two-year contract with utilityman Jerry Hairston Jr.