Alomar, Blyleven and Gillick are inducted into the Hall of Fame

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Janey Murray

The eyes of the baseball world were on Cooperstown on July 24, 2011, as three new members, representing three different countries, were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in front of an estimated crowd of 17,500 fans.

Roberto Alomar became the third Puerto Rican player inducted. Bert Blyleven, who was born in Zeist, Netherlands, was inducted in his next-to-last appearance on the ballot. Pat Gillick, a California native who was inducted as an executive, represented the United States.

Induction came early in Alomar’s eligibility, as he was elected with 90 percent of the vote in his second year on the ballot. Alomar remains the only non-first ballot electee to clear the 90-percent mark.

The second baseman signed with the San Diego Padres as an amateur free agent in 1985. Three years later, Alomar made his major league debut. In 1990, he began a streak of 12 consecutive All-Star selections with the Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians. He also captured World Series titles with Toronto in 1992 and 1993.

In 17 seasons with seven different teams, Alomar collected 2,724 hits, 210 home runs and 1,134 RBI, finishing with a career batting average of .300.

“I always played for my island,” Alomar said in his induction speech. “I would like to say to my family, to my fans, to all the Puerto Rican people and Canadians and the game of baseball, you are and will always be my life and my love.”

Baseball was in Alomar’s blood. His older brother, Sandy Alomar Jr., had a 20-year major league career, and his father, Sandy Alomar, was an All-Star second baseman who played for 15 seasons in the big leagues. As a result, the 2011 Induction Ceremony wasn’t Alomar’s first interaction with Blyleven. His fellow inductee was also teammates with his father on the Texas Rangers in 1977. The two met again 15 years later, when they faced each other three times in a game on July 4, 1992.

“What an amazing thing,” Alomar said on a conference call after he was elected to the Hall of Fame. “I got to hit against him, saw him when I was young, and now I’m getting the chance to go in the Hall of Fame with him.”

Blyleven had a longer wait to make his way to Cooperstown. The right-handed pitcher’s family moved to Canada from Holland in 1951 and then to Southern California in 1957. He grew up listening to Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers playing on the radio, and in 1969, he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins.

After six and a half seasons with the Twins, Blyleven was traded to the Texas Rangers. He ultimately played for 22 years with five different teams, recording 3,701 strikeouts, 242 complete games and a 3.31 career ERA.

He earned two All-Star selections and won two World Series: one with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979, and another with the Twins in 1987.

“It was an honor for me to wear a Major League uniform for the Minnesota Twins, the Texas Rangers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cleveland Indians and now called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I took a lot of pride in wearing all those uniforms,” Blyleven said. “Today I take a lot of pride in being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.”

Gillick, who was elected by the Expansion Era Committee, began his baseball journey as a left-handed pitcher, winning the College World Series with the University of Southern California in 1958.

After his five-year minor league career ended in 1963, Gillick became the assistant farm director for the Houston Colt 45s. He made a stop as scouting director for the New York Yankees before being hired as assistant general manager of the expansion Blue Jays before their inaugural season in 1977.

Gillick ascended to general manager in 1978 and eventually crafted two Blue Jays World Series championship teams in 1992 and 1993 – both of which Alomar played for, after Gillick acquired him via trade in 1990. Gillick went on to serve as general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies, winning his third title with Philadelphia in 2008.

Over 27 seasons as a general manager, Gillick led his teams to 11 postseason appearances and 20 winning records.

“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,” Gillick said in his Induction speech. “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.”

Janey Murray is the 2019 public relations intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series