Roberto Alomar patrolled second base like Fred Astaire danced. This past Sunday, Alomar, pitcher Bert Blyleven and General Manager Pat Gillick were enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
The 43-year-old Alomar garnered 523 of 581 votes (90 percent) from the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Noted as a defensive wizard, Alomar collected 10 Gold Gloves and concluded his 17-year career with a .300 batting average.
What distinguished Alomar from other second basemen was his ability to hit the ball a long distance. This dynamic forced pitchers to be very careful when facing the switch-hitter who clouted 210 homers, 504 doubles, 80 triples, with 1,134 runs batted in and 1,508 runs scored.
Before Sunday’s contest with Washington, Don Mattingly, the Dodgers’ manager was asked his opinion of Alomar.
“I didn’t know him when he was with San Diego (1988-1990), but when he went to Toronto I got to know him,’’ the first-year skipper said. “Defensively he was tremendous and he could steal bases. Another thing I remember was that he was always calm. What I didn’t know was that he could hit.”
Alomar became only the third Puerto Rican elected into the Hall and felt obligated to honor his roots by speaking Spanish during some of the ceremony. Alomar then addressed his tenure with the Blue Jays and Gillick, who engineered the trade that sent him North.
“My time in Toronto was the best of my career,’’ he said. “We won two World Series together. I am so proud to represent you as the first Toronto Blue Jay inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I consider the Toronto Blue Jay organization an extension of my own family.”
It began innocently for Alomar when he donned a Padres uniform in 1988. Like magic Alomar seemed battle-tested hitting .266, rapping 145 hits (39 for extra bases), driving in 41, scoring 84 and stealing 24 bags.
After the 1990 campaign, Alomar, a 12-time All-Star with 474 stolen bases and four Silver Slugger awards, was dealt along with outfielder Joe Carter to Toronto. The duo helped the Blue Jays win World Series banners in 1992 and 1993.
In 11 playoff series Alomar sparkled, batting .313, driving in 33 runs, scoring 32, with a .448 slugging percentage and a .381 on-base mark.
Alomar was in Toronto from 1991 until 1995 and batted .300 or better four times and averaged just over 41 steals per season.
Some time ago I was assigned a youth baseball game and witnessed an extraordinary defensive play by the second baseman.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the final inning, a hard-hit smash was destined for the outfield and would have scored the tying and winning run.
Afterward I asked him what was running through his mind when the ball left the bat. He supplied an answer I’ve not forgotten.
“I was thinking, ‘what would my hero do?’‘’ he offered. I asked who that player was. “Roberto Alomar,’’ he said. I told him he picked one of the best ever. Now it’s confirmed.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.