Praise around league for deserving entrants

Praise around league for deserving entrants

Praise around league for deserving entrants
The Hall of Fame elections on Wednesday of Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven raised a chorus of cheers on all branches of Major League Baseball's family tree.

Symbolic toasts to Alomar's landslide election and Blyleven's overdue confirmation were raised by all touched by their long careers, and that list is long as the pair played for 11 different teams.

Alomar distinguished himself with seven teams, his longest tenure of five years being with Toronto, immediately energized by the prospect of the former 12-time All-Star entering Cooperstown under a Blue Jays cap -- which would be a franchise first.

"Robbie defined himself playing for us," said Toronto club president Paul Beeston. "It will be a great recognition ... it's going to be very thrilling. Robbie was a Toronto Blue Jay. 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 he's so enthusiastic about (being inducted as a Blue Jay). He's not kind of saying 'Well, let me think about it.' He's saying 'I'm going in as a Toronto Blue Jay.' So I think it's terrific."

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Compatriots saluted Alomar's selection as the third Hall of Famer from Puerto Rico, following Robert Clemente and Orlando Cepeda.

"Obviously a huge honor for all of us," said Joey Cora, "not just the Puerto Rican community, but all of baseball. He comes from a great baseball family. And he worked at it and he deserves it."

"It means a lot because the players (now) -- they didn't have a chance to watch Roberto Clemente or maybe they didn't have a chance to watch Orlando Cepeda, but a lot of them had a chance to see Robbie Alomar," said Edwin Rodriguez, the Marlins manager. "So now they feel like they can touch him, they can be more aware of the kind of player he was and why he deserved to be a Hall of Famer. I think that's why it means a lot for the people in Puerto Rico and the people in this nation."

And Cepeda himself said, "It's amazing that this island so small has three Hall of Famers, and more to come. As a Puerto Rican, I feel very proud."

The only uniform Alomar and Blyleven shared was that of the Cleveland Indians, who on Wednesday were among the heartiest revelers.

Current Cleveland first base coach Sandy Alomar, Roberto's older brother, remembered him as "an incredible player."

"This is well deserved," Sandy Alomar said. "He was a pleasure to watch play the game and I am not saying that because he was by brother. He had all the tools and put them all into play. He did it all and did it all well. He might not have been the best at any one thing but he was above average at everything he did on the field."

The Alomar boys were Indians teammates in 1999-2000, the revival of their boyhood bonding in Puerto Rico.

"It was an honor to have played with him during our two years in Cleveland, and we also played together in Little League and the Minors," said the elder. "You could see at an early age, and he was so advanced for his age, that he was special. He got better as he went along, too, because he played against older, tougher competition while he was growing up. He was great in school with his grades growing up and excelled at everything we played -- soccer, baseball, basketball -- you name it, he did it well."

Former Indians manager Mike Hargrove uniquely bisects the two electees: He managed Alomar in '99 and played with Blyleven in 1981-85.

"I cannot think of two more deserving of this honor," Hargrove said in a statement released by the Indians. "This should have happened for Bert a long time ago. Bert had obviously the talent and career that screamed for him to be in the Hall of Fame, but he also had a passion for the game that is rivaled by few.

"I had a lot of fun playing the game of baseball with Bert and the main reason for that, other than him being a great teammate, is that you knew that on the day that he pitched you had a very good chance of winning.

"Robbie was in my opinion one of the best, pure, athletic players of his time. When they talk about prototypical second basemen, Robbie's name will always come up. I have known Robbie since he was a child and watched him grow up in the game. He was a true five-tool player and very deserving of this honor. My warmest congratulations go out to the both of them."

Blyleven is synonymous with the Twins -- he won 149 games with them and since 1996 has been in their broadcast booth -- and two earlier Minnesota Hall of Famers welcomed him into the brotherhood.

"This is a great day for baseball in general and Twins fans in particular," said Rod Carew. "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."

"I am thrilled that Bert will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame," said Harmon Killebrew. "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."

Alomar spent three seasons in the middle of his career with the Orioles, and managing partner Peter Angelos recalled his 1996-1998 contributions as "significant."

"His performance during those years, which included three All-Star Game selections, two Gold Gloves and countless on-field heroics, helped the team make two playoff appearances and showcased Roberto's Hall of Fame credentials," Angelos said in a statement.

Bret Boone, another former All-Star second baseman who fell off future ballots by receiving only one vote, wholeheartedly endorsed Alomar's overwhelming election.

"Alomar should have got 90 percent last year," said Boone, who collected 252 homers and 1,021 RBIs in a 14-season career through 2005. "The silliest thing was him not getting inducted on the first ballot. He was absolutely the best at our position to ever play the game, all around. I have huge respect for guys who did it at a high level for a long time. I got a taste of it for a few years. But those guys who did it for that long, I am in awe of what they did. Robbie was a major force for a decade."

All-time strikeout leader Nolan Ryan and Blyleven, still No. 5 on that list with 3,701, ranked one-two in strikeouts in the American League in 1974.

"I was glad to see him get voted in," said Ryan, the Texas club president and a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1999. "I really felt like he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame because of his durability, his competitiveness and what he accomplished with some teams that weren't in the postseason."

Alomar and Blyleven will formally join the Cooperstown family on July 24, when they will be joined by former front-office executive Pat Gillick, elected earlier by the post-expansion Veterans Committee, Ford C. Frick Award winner Dave Van Horne, the Marlins play-by-play man who spent 32 years in Montreal calling Expos games, and A.J. Spink Award winner Bill Conlin, a columnist and Phillies beat writer for the Philadelphia Daily News.

New York Yankees general manager Bryan Cashman saluted Gillick as someone "anybody in this game would look up to."

"It seems like everywhere he went, he worked with what was there," Cashman said of Gillick, who served as GM with four teams. "You see a lot of people take over clubs and they clean house. He seemed to keep everybody on and rebuilt it with the infrastructure there. I don't think he liked taking people's jobs. He just worked to make them better."

Gillick, a former scouting supervisor in George Steinbrenner's front office, made his first mark after assuming player personnel duties with the expansion Toronto Blue Jays in 1976. In December 1990, he swung the deal that helped pave the way to consecutive World Series titles in 1992-93 -- acquiring Alomar from the Padres.

On Wednesday, they were again reunited, this time in immortality.

Tom Singer is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow @Tom_Singer on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.