Hall pass: Alomar joins baseball's greats
Two-time World Series champion Cooperstown-bound
TORONTO -- For almost two decades, Roberto Alomar has been considered the greatest position player to put on a Blue Jays uniform.
On Wednesday afternoon, that claim was further validated when Alomar was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where he likely will make history by becoming the first player to be enshrined as a Blue Jay.
The 12-time All-Star second baseman was named on 90 percent of the ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America to receive entry into Cooperstown as part of the Class of 2011. It was Alomar's second time on the ballot after falling short by just eight votes in 2010.
"It's the happiest day of my life," Alomar said during a news conference in Toronto. "It brought back memories of when I was a little kid, when all I wanted to do was play baseball. I never expected to be in the Hall of Fame, I didn't even know what the Hall of Fame meant at the time. But when you get this call, it brings back memories.
"I'm humbled that I got so many votes. I never expected to get 90 percent of the votes."
During his 17-year career, Alomar recorded 2,724 hits, 210 home runs, 1,134 RBIs and 474 stolen bases. He finished in the top six of the American League MVP Award voting five times and won a Major League-record 10 Gold Gloves at second base.
In the field, Alomar's range went unmatched by any infielder in the game, and he wowed fans with his uncanny ability to make acrobatic plays look easy. There was a time when it seemed any ground ball hit to the right side would be smothered by the webbing of Alomar's glove.
At the plate, Alomar was a career .300 hitter and scored 100 runs six times. He drove in 100 runs twice and is a four-time recipient of the Silver Slugger Award, which is tied for second all-time among second basemen, behind only Ryne Sandberg.
The decision on which team's cap Alomar will wear in the Hall isn't his, but by appearing in front of a backdrop embroidered with the Blue Jays' logo on Wednesday, he made his preference clear.
"If it would be my choice, I would love to pick the Toronto Blue Jays," said Alomar, who also played for six other organizations. "This is where I belong, Toronto; the city deserves this. I hope that the Hall of Fame understands that I won two World Series here, that I had great years and that I represent Toronto with a lot of pride."
As much as the moment means to the city of Toronto, it is equally important to Alomar's native country. The 42-year-old now joins Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda as the only Puerto Ricans in the Hall of Fame.
"Roberto Clemente is a special person that we all admire as Puerto Ricans," Alomar said. "He has done so many great things for the country of Puerto Rico, and Orlando Cepeda waited for so long to be inducted. Being beside those guys is an amazing accomplishment.
"They're real excited in Puerto Rico. I can't wait to go there and be with them."
|Roberto Alomar (2)||523||90.0|
|Bert Blyleven (14)||463||79.7|
|Barry Larkin (2)||361||62.1|
|Jack Morris (12)||311||53.5|
|Lee Smith (9)||263||45.3|
|Jeff Bagwell (1)||242||41.7|
|Tim Raines (4)||218||37.5|
|Edgar Martinez (2)||191||32.9|
|Alan Trammell (10)||141||24.3|
|Larry Walker (1)||118||20.3|
|Mark McGwire (5)||115||19.8|
|Fred McGriff (2)||104||17.9|
|Dave Parker (15)||89||15.3|
|Don Mattingly (11)||79||13.6|
|Dale Murphy (13)||73||12.6|
|Rafael Palmeiro (1)||64||11.0|
|Juan Gonzalez (1)||30||5.2|
|Harold Baines (5)||28||4.8|
|John Franco (1)||27||4.6|
|Kevin Brown (1)||12||2.1|
|Tino Martinez (1)||6||1.0|
|Marquis Grissom (1)||4||0.7|
|Al Leiter (1)||4||0.7|
|John Olerud (1)||4||0.7|
|B.J. Surhoff (1)||2||0.3|
|Bret Boone (1)||1||0.2|
|Benito Santiago (1)||1||0.2|
|Carlos Baerga (1)||0||0|
|Lenny Harris (1)||0||0|
|Bobby Higginson (1)||0||0|
|Charles Johnson (1)||0||0|
|Raul Mondesi (1)||0||0|
|Kirk Rueter (1)||0||0|
Alomar's career began in 1988, when he made his Major League debut with the Padres. He spent three seasons in San Diego before being dealt to Toronto prior to the 1991 season.
It was with the Blue Jays that Alomar established himself as one of the elite players in the game. He helped lead the club to back-to-back World Series championships in 1992-93, and during his five-year tenure with the team, he received an AL Gold Glove Award and was named to the AL All-Star team each season. He ranks first in franchise history for second basemen in batting average (.308), runs (447), triples (35) and stolen bases (206).
The greatest moment of Alomar's career arguably occurred during Game 4 of the 1992 AL Championship Series. His dramatic ninth-inning home run capped a five-run comeback and was credited as the main reason the Blue Jays were able to defeat Oakland and advance to the World Series.
"I was seeing the ball real well that day," said Alomar, who was named MVP of the series after hitting .423 with two home runs, four RBIs and five stolen bases. "I was facing the best of the best, Dennis Eckersley. ... It was an exciting moment. It turned the whole series around. From that point on, we came back here at home and we won it all."
Alomar's tenure came to an end in 1995 when he signed a free-agent contract with the Orioles. He hit .312 with 50 home runs and 210 RBIs over three years in Baltimore, but it was Alomar's unfortunate run-in with an umpire that fans will remember the most about his tenure in Baltimore.
On Sept. 27, 1996, Alomar made headlines when he spit in the face of home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck while the two were involved in a heated argument over a called third strike.
"I think in life, as human beings, we make mistakes," Alomar said. "We have to recognize when we make a mistake and the only thing we can do is apologize and make [yourself] a better person.
"I got the chance to meet John, meet his family, and we became real good friends. ... I regret what I did. I apologized to him many times, and as long as he forgave me, which he has done already, I hope you guys will do the same."
In 1999, Alomar signed a four-year contract with the Indians to play with his brother, Sandy Jr. Despite all the accolades Roberto Alomar received with the Blue Jays, he arguably enjoyed his greatest statistical season while in Cleveland.
Alomar hit .323 with 24 home runs and 120 RBIs while stealing 37 bases in 1999. He finished third in the AL MVP Award voting and led the Indians to the playoffs before bowing out to the Red Sox in the AL Division Series.
During his three-year career with Cleveland, Alomar hit .323 with 63 home runs, 309 RBIs and 106 stolen bases. He scored at least 111 runs each season and twice recorded an on-base percentage above .400.
Following the 2001 campaign, Alomar was traded to the Mets and his career was never the same. His once eye-popping range at second base became greatly diminished, and he couldn't rediscover his stroke at the plate. Over the next two seasons, he would play for the White Sox and D-backs before retiring in 2005.
He was well traveled, but to people in Toronto, there's no question where he will be remembered the most.
"Robbie was a Toronto Blue Jay," club president Paul Beeston said. "When you look at it, that's where his best body of work was done and that's where he really made his name.
"What's best about it is how enthusiastic he is about it. He's not kind of saying, 'Well, let me think about it.' He's saying, 'I'm going in as a Toronto Blue Jay. I came to Toronto today to get this call ... and do all of the things that are necessary because Toronto is my home.'"