NEW YORK (AP) — Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven became Hall of Famers on Wednesday, the two-time World Series champions easily elected after narrow misses last year.
Sluggers Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell and Juan Gonzalez came nowhere close. Hall voters, for now, seem intent to prevent the cloud of the Steroids Era from covering Cooperstown.
Alomar was picked on 90 percent of the ballots by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The 12-time All-Star won a record 10 Gold Gloves at second base, hit .300 and helped the Toronto Blue Jays win titles in 1992-93.
Blyleven was picked on 79.7 percent — it takes 75 percent to reach the shrine. The great curveballer won 287 games, threw 60 shutouts and is fifth with 3,701 strikeouts. This was his 14th time on the ballot and his career stats have gotten a boost in recent years by sabermetricians who have new ways to evaluate baseball numbers.
“It’s been 14 years of praying and waiting,” Blyleven said in a conference call. “And thank the baseball writers of America for, I’m going to say, finally getting it right.”
Palmeiro, McGwire, Bagwell and Gonzalez fared poorly in the election, with BBWAA members apparently reluctant to choose bulky hitters who posted big numbers in the 1990s and 2000s.
“The writers are saying that this was the Steroids Era, like they have done Mark McGwire,” Blyleven said. “They’ve kind of made their point. It doesn’t surprise me.”
“Guys cheated,” he said. “They cheated themselves and their teammates. The game of baseball is to be played clean. I think we went through a Steroid Era and I think it’s up to the writers to decide when and who should go in through that era.”
Palmeiro was listed on just 64 of a record 581 ballots (11 percent) in his first try despite lofty career numbers — he is joined by Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the lone players with more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
But Palmeiro failed a drug test and was suspended by Major League Baseball in 2005. The penalty came a few months after he wagged his finger at members of Congress and told them: “I have never used steroids. Period.”
Palmeiro recently reiterated the anabolic steroid that caused his positive test came in a vitamin vial given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada.
Bagwell got 41.7 percent in his first year on the ballot. His career stats are among the best for first basemen since World War II — .297 batting average, .408 on-base percentage and .540 slugging percentage. He hit 449 home runs, topped 1,500 RBIs and runs and ran the bases hard. He was Rookie of the Year, NL MVP and a Gold Glove winner.
Bagwell never tested positive, there were no public allegations against him and he was adamant that he never used illegal drugs. Still, many voters and fans aren’t sure yet how to assess the big numbers put up by the game’s biggest hitters.
McGwire got 19.8 percent, a drop from 23.7 percent last year. This was his fifth time on the ballot, and first since the former home run champion admitted he took steroids and human growth hormone.
Juan Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP implicated by Jose Canseco in steroids use, received 30 votes, just above the 5 percent threshold for remaining on the ballot next year.
Alomar and Blyleven will be joined by Pat Gillick at the induction ceremonies July 24 in Cooperstown. The longtime executive was picked last month by the Veterans Committee. Gillick helped earn his place with a trade that brought Alomar to Toronto.
Smart, graceful and acrobatic on the field, Alomar also was guilty in one of the game’s most boorish moments. He spit on umpire John Hirschbeck during a dispute in 1996 and was suspended. They later made up and Hirschbeck supported Alomar’s bid for the Hall.
“I regret every bit of it. I apologized many times to John,” he said. “I feel good I’ve had a good relationship with John.”
Said Hirschbeck: “I’m very, very happy for him. It’s overdue.”
“I’m not going to comment on why he didn’t get elected the first time. But I forgave him. Maybe the rest of the world has,” Hirschbeck told The Associated Press by telephone.
Alomar drew 73.7 percent last year in his first try on the ballot. Blyleven had come even closer, missing by just five votes while getting 74.2 percent.
“Robbie was an incredible player. 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,” former Cleveland teammate Sandy Alomar Jr. said.
Alomar got his first major league hit off Nolan Ryan in 1988. Ryan was the last pure starting pitcher elected to the Hall by the BBWAA in 1999.
Blyleven, now 59, pitched against Alomar and his father, Sandy Alomar Jr.
It was quite a climb for Blyleven, who helped pitch Pittsburgh to the 1979 title and Minnesota to the 1987 crown. Many years ago, he drew barely over 14 percent in the BBWAA voting.
“I could not be happier if it was my own son,” Twins Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew said. “I played in the first game Bert pitched for the Minnesota Twins in 1970. … I wish it wouldn’t have taken so long but now that he is in, it’s wonderful.”
Voting for the Hall of Fame:
581 votes cast, 436 needed
x-Roberto Alomar 523 (90.0, x-Bert 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 (0.7%), B.J. Surhoff 2 (0.3%), Bret Boone 1 (0.2%), Benito Santiago 1 (0.2%), Carlos Baerga 0, Lenny Harris 0, Bobby Higginson 0, Charles Johnson 0, Raul Mondesi 0, Kirk Rueter 0.