Gillick, who led the Mariners' baseball operations from 2000-03, was the only candidate to earn the necessary 75 percent of the votes from the 16-person Expansion Era Committee on a ballot that included eight former players, three executives and one manager.
"This is an honor I share with everyone who ever participated with us," Gillick said at a press conference that kicked off the start of the Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort.
Gillick's teams in Seattle posted a 393-255 record for a .606 winning percentage. The Mariners went 91-71 his first season, then claimed the American League West title and advanced to the ALCS in a record-setting 116-46 campaign in '01.
Gillick, currently working as a senior adviser for the Phillies, also built playoff teams in Toronto, Baltimore and Philadelphia during his 27 years as a general manager. His teams won three World Series championships and made 11 playoff appearances.
Gillick, hired in Seattle to replace Woody Woodward and helped by a payroll increase in conjunction with the increased revenues from the opening of Safeco Field, set about remaking the Mariners' fortunes.
The Mariners had the best record in baseball during his four years, and he made a number of roster moves in 2000 and '01 that all seemed to work. Forced to trade Ken Griffey Jr. shortly after his arrival, he managed to get Mike Cameron in return and then added key players such as Ichiro Suzuki, Bret Boone, John Olerud, Arthur Rhodes, Mark McLemore, Jeff Nelson, Stan Javier and others to lift Seattle to its historic 116-win season.
"That was one of those magical years, where things just fell into place," Gillick said. "That year, actually, one of our better players, [Alex Rodriguez], went over to Texas, and we lost him. And the year before, we had lost Griffey to Cincinnati.
"So it was just one of those years where we had a good group of people, and that's one thing that I think is very important is character. When I started out in this game, I thought it was 70 percent ability and 30 percent character. And the longer I've been in it, I think it's 60 percent character and 40 percent ability."
Mariners president Chuck Armstrong called Gillick's election "well-earned and richly deserved. He seemed to have a gift for putting together rosters."
Armstrong described Gillick as an old-school baseball man who doesn't use e-mail, but pounds the phones constantly in talking to people in the game and pursuing talent. And his eye for ability certainly became evident in his construction of the '01 roster.
"You would say that was serendipitous or whatever, except Pat had done that in other locations," Armstrong said. "He'd done that his last years in Toronto, in Baltimore when he took them to the playoffs, in Philadelphia after he left us. I think he shows a pattern of success. That's why he's a Hall of Famer. I think he's arguably the finest general manager of his generation."
Armstrong said the Mariners worked hard to keep Gillick from stepping down in '03, when he became a team consultant before eventually signing on with the Phillies. But he said Gillick was sensitive to media criticism, when the team failed to make the postseason, despite 93-win seasons in '02 and '03. Armstrong also noted that Gillick had established a pattern of moving on after similar stints elsewhere.
Gillick noted that he never hired or fired a manager at Baltimore, Seattle or Philadelphia, always working with the skipper he inherited, which was unusual. His recollection of working with Lou Piniella in Seattle was of a guy who wanted to win just as badly or more than Gillick did.
"We won 10 in a row and then we'd lose one, and Lou would say, 'I need a left-handed hitter,'" Gillick said with a laugh.
For the Mariners, it was a special time.
"Pat is a remarkable GM and evaluator of talent," Armstrong said. "He had a genius for putting together rosters. We were pleased he was with us for four years."