07/24/11 7:47 PM ET
HOF recognition well deserved for Gillick
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Gillick, the architect of three World Series winners, became the latest executive to join the roll call of immortals at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Sunday, a distinction built on the back of a rich career spent molding and shaping organizations to a highly polished sheen.
And by doing so, he joined a small, yet influential group of men in baseball history. Thirty-two executives are in the Hall of Fame, but prior to Gillick, just five of them -- Ed Barrow, Branch Rickey, George Weiss, Larry MacPhail and Lee MacPhail -- had performed the duties of a general manager without owning the team.
Gillick, 73 years old, was well aware of that select company, and he said Saturday that he hopes to see many more people of his ilk added to the Hall's honor roll over the next few years.
"I'm very honored. I think I kind of represent the people below the radar," he said at a pre-induction press conference. "And I am a little bit shocked by the number. I'm four or five, something like that, but I think there's a couple guys, certainly John Schuerholz over in Atlanta, I think would deserve consideration. So hopefully we are going to get some more people out of management into the Hall of Fame. But again, I feel like I represent the guys in the trenches: Scouts, players, people kind of below the radar that don't get all the publicity but do all the heavy lifting, a lot of the grunt work. So that's why I'm really honored and humbled."
Gillick, a left-handed pitcher during his playing days, made it as high as Triple-A before he made the fateful decision to trade in his spikes for a suit and tie. He began as an assistant farm director with Houston and eventually ascended to scouting director before moving to the Yankees organization.
Just two years later, destiny called and Gillick answered. The expansion Toronto Blue Jays were looking for somebody to build their team, and they reached out to Gillick at a propitious time.
"We thought it would be a great new challenge, accepted it and ended up living 30 years in that beautiful Canadian city," he said Sunday. "For a baseball person, it was a dream come true. Imagine being able to build a team from scratch in a city where everyone was excited about finally having a Major League team."
And if they were excited when he got there, they quickly became ecstatic. Gillick became the club's general manager shortly before Toronto's second season, and he led the Blue Jays to five division titles and two World Series championships before stepping down and accepting a position with the Orioles.
Gillick also had great success in Baltimore, guiding the Orioles to two playoff appearances in his three seasons at the helm. His next team -- the Seattle Mariners -- went to consecutive playoff appearances in 2000 and '01, with the latter team tying the Major League record by winning 116 games.
Interestingly, all three of those teams haven't returned to the playoffs since Gillick's departure. Schuerholz, one of Gillick's most distinguished peers, touched on that record of success Sunday, when he introduced the inductee with a video statement that expounded on what made him great.
"I think what distinguishes a man like Pat -- and has him at a place like he is today, being honored in the fashion he so rightly deserves -- is the sustainability and the consistency of excellent work," he said. "He was prepared intellectually. He was committed to being the best at what he did. He made good judgments. He surrounded himself with good people, and as a result, built good teams if not great teams. And did it consistently. He did it with character. He did it with integrity. He did it with honor. He did his job well and he did it right."
"I wasn't watching that video," quipped Gillick, "But John narrated it just as I wrote it."
Gillick, of course, wasn't done building teams. He went to Philadelphia after Seattle and molded the Phillies into a contender first and a champion second. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 -- an event Gillick termed a "an incredible capstone to my career" -- prompting his shift to a less active role.
Gillick now terms himself an active consultant, and he said he likely won't accept another team-building job unless it's as a team president or something that he doesn't consider a lateral move.
Gillick, at multiple points of his induction speech, noted the importance of the scouting community in building a proper team, and he spoke tellingly of the way the game has changed during his tenure. Everything is more immediate now, and it's harder for one scout to sneak in and sign a prospect.
"As a young scout, I remember hiding up in trees with binoculars so no other scouts would know I was interested in a prospect," he said. "I remember the assumed names and the clever tactics we all used to get an edge or throw others off the scent. I remember looking for players in the Caribbean in the early '60s when there were only a few of us down there, and we helped each other out even as we competed. ...I didn't find the next Rico Carty or the next Roberto Clemente, but I did find something better: I actually found my wife, Doris, at a hotel in Santo Domingo on a scouting trip in 1968. She was flying for Pan Am and we've been together ever since."
That said it all, as did his Hall of Fame plaque, which bills him as a "brilliant talent evaluator whose remarkable memory and uncanny ability to shape rosters resulted in three World Series titles and a sterling resume with six organizations." Gillick, driven by passion for the game, never let his job become a chore.
"I was lucky to go to work every day for 50 years to a job that I loved, a job I still can't believe they paid me to do," said Gillick at the close of his prepared remarks. "And I'm humbled to be standing here today when the game has already given me back so much more than I ever imagined possible."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.