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Alomar, Blyleven elected to Hall of Fame

Alomar, Blyleven elected to Hall of Fame

Alomar, Blyleven elected to Hall of Fame
NEW YORK -- Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday as part of the Class of 2011, ending a year of anxiety and trepidation for the pair of stellar players.

Alomar was named on 90 percent of the ballots, or 523 of the record 581 cast, good for the third-highest vote total in history. Blyleven was named on 79.7 percent of the ballots, receiving 463 votes. A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote to gain election. The threshold for election this year was 436 votes.

Alomar called it "the happiest day of my life."

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"It was a long year, a very long year," Alomar said. "But it's worth it. I'm real happy today. I don't look back."

A news conference to introduce the electees is slated for Thursday morning at the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in midtown Manhattan.

A year ago, the two made history, as Blyleven missed election by five votes and Alomar missed by eight on a ballot in which outfielder Andre Dawson was the only player elected by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Never before had two players come so close to that threshold in the same year without gaining entrance.

In 2010, Blyleven had 74.21 percent of the vote and Alomar 73.65 percent.

Blyleven said he wasn't sure why he it took him so long to make the grade.

"I'll just say the last name is Blyleven and it's 2011. The writers just decided, 'Hey, that would be a good year for him to go in,'" quipped Blyleven, now a broadcaster for the Twins. "It's been frustrating over the years. I can tell you that the last week my wife and I have been pretty nervous."

The duo will join general manager Pat Gillick for the induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 24. Gillick, who built World Series champions in Toronto (1992-93) and Philadelphia (2008), was elected by a post-expansion Veterans Committee last month. Coincidently, Gillick acquired Alomar and Joe Carter for the Blue Jays in the 1990 blockbuster trade that shipped Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to San Diego.

Hall of Fame BBWAA ballots
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Alomar, Blyleven elected
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Alomar on Hall election

Dave Van Horne, the Marlins play-by-play man who spent 32 years in Montreal calling Expos games, won the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in Major League broadcasting. Bill Conlin, a columnist and Phillies beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, was named by the BBWAA as this year's winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for his long-time contribution to baseball writing. They will also be there for the big day this summer.

Alomar, a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman, was in his second of 15 years on the ballot. Blyleven, the right-handed pitcher with a record of 287-250, was in his 14th year.

The rules are simple: Five years after retirement, a player can remain on the BBWAA ballot for 15 consecutive years, provided that he receives at least 5 percent of the vote each year.

"It's been 14 years of praying and waiting," Blyleven said. "I'd like to thank the Baseball Writers for finally getting it right."

Just after the announcement, Alomar expressed his gratitude as well as his desire to go into the Hall as a member of the Blue Jays where he played five seasons and won those two World Series titles. He'd be the first player in history to go in wearing a Blue Jays cap. Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor all played for Toronto during that era, but Winfield went in representing the Padres, Henderson the A's and Molitor the Brewers.

"I would love to," Alomar said when asked about going in as a Blue Jay. "I think it's out of my hands [what cap] I go in with. I think it's up to the Hall of Fame people, but I'm looking forward to hopefully to wear the Toronto Blue Jays hat. I prefer to go as a Toronto Blue Jay. I won two World Series there."

The Dutch born and California-raised Blyleven, who had two stints with the Twins totaling 10 of his 22 seasons, would seem to be destined to go in wearing a Twins Cities cap.

"The Hall of Fame decides what hat I wear," said Blyleven, who came up with the Twins in 1970, played his first six seasons there, and later played on the their '87 World Series-winning team. "I'm just very fortunate to now be one of the elite members of the Hall of Fame. It's their decision, but hopefully it'll be the Minnesota Twins."

Blyleven has the support of two Twins greats and Hall of Famers: Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew.

"This is a great day for baseball in general and Twins fans in particular," Carew said. "Bert's election to the Hall of Fame is well deserved and long overdue. Bert was as fierce a competitor as I ever faced on the mound. I look forward to being in Cooperstown in July and welcoming Bert Blyleven to the most exclusive club in the world."

Added Killebrew, who recently announced that he's battling a rare form of esophageal cancer: "I could not be happier if it was my own son. I played in the first game Bert pitched for the Minnesota Twins in 1970. He's been a credit to the Twins organization and all of baseball. I wish it wouldn't have taken so long but now that he is in, it's wonderful."

Other significant names on this year's BBWAA ballot were first-timers Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Larry Walker, Juan Gonzalez and Tino Martinez. Top returnees included Jack Morris, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines and Lee Smith.

Larkin, in his second year on the ballot, finished third behind Alomar and Blyleven. He had about a 10-point up tick to 62.1 percent of the vote. The 12-time All-Star shortstop, who played his entire 19-year career with the Reds, should be a top candidate next year when there are no viable first year players on the ballot.

"It's just an honor to be considered," Larkin said. "I'm just happy to be in the mix."

The remainder of this year's BBWAA ballot featured returnees Harold Baines, Don Mattingly, McGriff, Mark McGwire, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Alan Trammell, and first-timers Carlos Baerga, Bret Boone, Kevin Brown, Marquis Grissom, Lenny Harris, Bobby Higginson, Charles Johnson, Al Leiter, Raul Mondesi, John Olerud, Kirk Rueter, Benito Santiago and B.J. Surhoff.

Hall of Fame history leaned heavily toward Alomar and Blyleven earning nods this year. Including the new electees, all 23 of the previous players to receive 70-74.9 percent of the vote in a given election were eventually granted admission to the Hall, 19 by the BBWAA the following year.

Most recently, reliever Rich "Goose" Gossage missed by 21 votes in 2007 and was elected in '08 in his ninth year, and Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice fell 16 votes shy in '08, but was elected in '09 in his 15th and final year.

This year, 16 players didn't receive the requisite 5 percent and won't be back, including Baines, Brown, Franco and Martinez. Six of them didn't receive any votes at all. Dave Parker, the slugging outfielder, received 15.3 percent in this his 15th and final year on the BBWAA ballot.

It was a ballot that held plenty of intrigue. The candidates included a trio of slugging first basemen in Bagwell, McGwire and Palmeiro. None of them got in as voters continued to issue a resounding "no" to those who played during the tainted Steroids Era. Palmeiro should have been a sure-fire first-ballot inductee, as a member of the 500-homer, 3,000-hit club, but was suspended in 2005 after testing positive for steroid use. He received only 11 percent of the vote.

Palmeiro, with 569 homers and 3,020 hits, was only the fourth player in history to amass more than 500 homers and 3,000 hits. The others are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray. That trio, of course, is in the Hall.

McGwire, who hit 583 homers, was the first "test case" for players who used or were suspected of using steroids. Palmeiro was the first star to be suspended for such use. He continues to insist publicly that he took a tainted shot of the vitamin B-12 and has never used steroids. He said recently that the drug was provided by Miguel Tejada -- his Baltimore teammate at the time -- and administered by his own wife, Lynne.

"It was my mistake," Palmeiro told SI.com last month. "I should have known what I was putting into my body. I am accountable, and I have paid the price. But, it wasn't steroids. Vitamin B-12 gives you energy. It doesn't enhance your performance."

McGwire has not fared well in his five years on the ballot. He reached 23.7 percent last year, but that was before he returned to the Cardinals as hitting coach and publicly admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs. This year he slipped to 19.8 percent.

Bagwell, his career cut short because of a shoulder injury, hit 449 home runs and hit .297. Though he also played under the shadow of PED use that plagued Major League Baseball during his career, there's no concrete evidence that he ever used PEDs, and he recently denied any rumors of doing so. Bagwell was National League Rookie of the Year in 1991 and Most Valuable Player in '94. Bagwell had a decent first-year showing and was seventh overall at 41.7 percent.

Blyleven became the first full-time starting pitcher elected to the Hall since current Rangers president and all-time strikeout leader Nolan Ryan received 98.8 percent of the vote in 1999, his first year on the ballot. Dennis Eckersley was elected in 2004 -- also his first year. But after he spent the first part of his career as a starter, his Hall of Fame credentials were formulated as a lights-out closer.

"The Pohlad family and Minnesota Twins organization would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Bert Blyleven on his long-awaited election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame," said Twins president Dave St. Peter. "Bert's on-field contributions and statistical resume speak for themselves and make him quite deserving of a place in Cooperstown."

Aside from the Twins, Blyleven played for Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels. He is 27th on the all-time list with 287 wins, is fifth in career strikeouts with 3,701, and aside from the '87 Twins, also played on the 1979 "We Are Family" World Series-winning Pirates. Blyleven is 11th in games started with 685, ninth all-time with 60 shutouts and 13th all-time in innings pitched with 4,970. He's also 10th with his 250 losses.

Blyleven said he would have liked to have reached the 300-win plateau, but by the end of his career his body was spent.

"What you can't control as a pitcher sometimes is wins and losses," he said. "But what you can control is innings pitched and keeping your club in the game. I think people pay more attention to those stats now than they were even 10 years ago."

Alomar, who played for the Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles, Indians, Mets, White Sox and D-backs, is the third native of Puerto Rico to be elected to the Hall following Roberto Clemente in 1973 and Orlando Cepeda in '99. Clemente was placed on the ballot shortly after he died in a tragic New Year's Eve plane crash as he was ferrying supplies to then earthquake torn Nicaragua, and Cepeda was voted in by a Veterans Committee.

Alomar, one of the greatest defensive second basemen in history, had 2,724 hits, 210 homers, 1,134 RBIs, 474 stolen bases and a .300 average in 2,379 games. He's the first second baseman to be elected since Ryne Sandberg in 2005.

His resounding victory this time around completely erased the sting of barely missing the cut last year.

"I was surprised I got so many votes," said Alomar, whose father Sandy Sr. was a big league infielder and his older brother Sandy Jr. an All-Star catcher. "I know last year was a little bit disappointing, but on the other hand I feel happy about what happened this year. I'm really excited. This is a really exciting moment for me."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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