BY ERIC AHLQVIST
THE COOPERSTOWN CRIER
Bert Blyleven’s long wait and Roberto Alomar’s short one are over, while Rafael Palmeiro’s seems to be just beginning.
Blyleven, in his 14th season on the Baseball Writers Association of America’s ballot, and Alomar, in just his second try, were both elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, while Palmeiro received just 11 percent of the vote despite a career that included 3,000 hits, 500 home runs. He failed a drug test late in his career.
Alomar and Blyleven will be inducted into the Hall on July 24 at the Clark Sports Center, along with executive Pat Gillick, who was elected last month by the Expansion Era Committee. Also to be honored over Induction Weekend will be Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for baseball writing and longtime Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins voice Dave Van Horne with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting. the latter two will be honored during a special Saturday ceremony at Doubleday Field, which is new to Hall of Fame Weekend this year.
Blyleven, a 287-game winner with more than 3,700 career strikeouts and known for his trademark curveball, said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he was ecstatic his wait was finally over. “It’s been 14 years of praying and waiting,’’ Blyleven, an announcer with the Minnesota Twins, said. “I’d like to thank the writers for finally getting it right.’’
Alomar received 523 votes of the 581 ballots cast Blyleven was named on 463 ballots for 79.7 percent. Alomar is the 20th second baseman andBlyleven is the 72nd pitcher elected to the Hall.
Alomar was a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winning second baseman, and helped Toronto win World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, when Gillick served the Blue Jays as their GM. Gillick was the lone electee of the inaugural Expansion Era ballot announced last month.
“Sitting here today, I can still remember the home run Robby hit off of Dennis Eckersley,’’ Gillick said in December of Alomar’s tying, two-run shot in the top of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1992 American League Championship Series. “Without that home run, I might not be sitting here. Roberto is the best allaround second baseman I’ve been around in the last 20 years.’’
Alomar said Gillick was one of his mentors in the game, and the home run off Eckersely is one of his proudest moments in baseball.
“My first hit was off Nolan Ryan, but the two World Series titles are my proudest moments,’’ Alomar said Wednesday. “Winning is what baseball is all about.’’
Gillick, who joined the expansion Blue Jays in 1977, is credited with orchestrating the trade to acquire Alomar and Joe Carter from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez in December of 1990. Carter hit a walk-off, three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series to cap an 8-6 victory that clinched the title for the Blue Jays.
In addition to consecutive World Series titles, Alomar was named to 12 straight All Star teams from 1990- 2001 and won 10 Gold Glove Awards at second base. Alomar hit .300 or better in nine of his 17 seasons, and finished with a career batting average of .300.
Players must be named on 75 percent of ballots submitted to be elected. This year, 436 votes were required. The previous record total of ballots submitted in a BBWAA election was 545 in 2007 when Cal Ripken Jr. was elected with 537 votes and Tony Gwynn with 532, the two top individual vote totals.
The switch-hitting Alomar played 17 seasons including stints with the San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, New York Mets, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks. He totaled 2,724 hits, 1,508 runs, 504 doubles, 80 triples, 210 home runs, 1,134 runs batted in and 474 stolen bases.
Blyleven pitched in 22 seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and California Angels and compiled a 287-250 record with a 3.31 ERA, 242 complete games, 60 shutouts and 3,701 strikeouts in 4,969 1/3 innings. He, too, was a key part of two World Series champions, the 1979 Pirates and the 1987 Twins.
Blyleven said he would prefer to enter the Hall wearing a Twins’ cap, but understands Hall officials make the final selection.
The vote and percentages: Alomar 523 (90.0), Blyleven 463 (79.7), Barry Larkin 361 (62.1), Jack Morris 311 (53.5), Lee Smith 263 (45.3), Jeff Bagwell 242 (41.7), Tim Raines 218 (37.5), Edgar Martinez 191 (32.9), Alan Trammell 141 (24.3), Larry Walker 118 (20.3), Mark McGwire 115 (19.8), Fred McGriff 104 (17.9), Dave Parker 89 (15.3), Don Mattingly 79 (13.6), Dale Murphy 73 (12.6), Rafael Palmeiro 64 (11.0), Juan Gonzalez 30 (5.2), Harold Baines 28 (4.8), John Franco 27 (4.6), Kevin Brown 12 (2.1), Tino Martinez 6 (1.0), Marquis Grissom 4 (0.7), Al Leiter 4 (0.7), John Olerud 4 (0.), B.J. Surhoff 2 (0.3), Bret Boone 1 (0.2), Benito Santiago 1 (0.2), Carlos Baerga 0, Lenny Harris (0).