COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — With Puerto Rican flags waving in the breeze and many of his countrymen cheering in appreciation, Roberto Alomar was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Speaking first in his native Spanish, the third Puerto Rican player to be enshrined, along with Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Clemente, said he felt proud to be a Puerto Rican.
“I always played for my island,” he said at Sunday’s ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., before adding “It is a true blessing to be able to share this moment with all of you. I have you in my heart.”
The governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuno, took a moment to congratulate Alomar, saying that his induction “is an honor for all Puerto Ricans.” He thanked Alomar for representing his Caribbean homeland well in the big leagues.
Alomar, a member of the Toronto Blue Jays’ World Series championship teams in 1992 and 1993, is the first player to enter the Hall of Fame wearing a Blue Jays cap and just the 20th second baseman to be inducted.
“I did not know how nervous I would be,” said Alomar, who was bypassed in his first year of eligibility and on his second try was named on 90 percent of ballots cast, becoming the 26th player to garner at least 90 percent in any election. “Suddenly, I feel speechless.”
The switch-hitting Alomar won a record 10 Gold Gloves at second base, was a 12-time All-Star and a career .300 hitter. Full of baseball smarts and grace, he’s also linked with one of the game’s most tawdry moments — he spit on umpire John Hirschbeck during an argument in 1996. The two have long since moved past that, and Hirschbeck was invited to come on Sunday. He had to decline because he’s working a game in St. Louis.
Also inducted Sunday was right-hander Bert Blyleven, the first Dutch-born player to be enshrined. He thanked his late father and 85-year-old mother for the drive and determination he needed to succeed.
Blyleven, whose amazing curveball frustrated batters, finished with 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts, 60 shutouts and a pair of World Series rings — in 1979 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and 1987 with the Twins.
Blyleven’s path toward the Hall was a slow, steep one — he drew the backing of only 14.1 percent one year — but on his 14th try became the first pure starting pitcher to get selected by the BBWAA since Nolan Ryan in 1999.
Blyleven’s father, who died of Parkinson’s in 2004, fell in love with baseball and the Dodgers after the family moved to Southern California in the late 1950s.
“I wish he was here,” Blyleven said. “But you know, mom, I know he’s up there looking down right now.”
Front-office guru Pat Gillick was the other inductee. His teams posted winning records in 20 of his 27 seasons as a general manager and advanced to the postseason 11 times. He was general manager when the Blue Jays won World Series titles in 1992 and 1993 and the Phillies in 2008.