Alomar, Blyleven elected to hall of fame

An acrobatic wizard in the field and an offensive catalyst at the plate and on the basepaths, Roberto Alomar was one of the most well-rounded players of his time.

Former Toronto Blue Jay Roberto Alomar  and Bert Blyleven were elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Former Toronto Blue Jay Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

TORONTO — An acrobatic wizard in the field and an offensive catalyst at the plate and on the basepaths, Roberto Alomar was one of the most well-rounded players of his time.

He did it all over 17 seasons in the big leagues: two World Series titles, 12 all-star games and 10 Gold Glove Awards.

Add Hall of Famer to his stellar resume. And chances are good he’ll be the first inductee at Cooperstown with a Toronto cap on his plaque.

After coming just short a year ago, Alomar and Bert Blyleven were selected for induction into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Wednesday.

Alomar, who helped lead the Blue Jays to championships in 1992 and 1993, was picked on 90 per cent of the ballots. Blyleven was listed on 79.7 per cent, just ahead of the 75 per cent needed for election.

Alomar collected 2,724 hits, 210 homers, 1,134 RBIs, 1,508 runs and 474 steals in 2,379 games. He had a .300 career average and was named ALCS MVP in 1992.

Alomar joins four other former Blue Jays at Cooperstown — Phil Niekro, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson — who all went in with other teams. Many of Alomar’s best years came in Toronto and he’s hoping the Hall will induct him as a Blue Jay.

“I was proud to wear that uniform,” Alomar said. “I was proud to go every day and give my best to the game of baseball. So (the fans) could enjoy every day that I played.”

Alomar said he called his family and former manager Cito Gaston shortly after he got the news.

“When I came here, he embraced me and he gave me the opportunity to play every day,” Alomar said. “Like I always say, he taught me so much about this game. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to play for him and with him. It was a really touching conversation.”

Alomar was named on 73.7 per cent of the ballots last year in his first try. Blyleven had come even closer, missing by just five votes while getting 74.2 per cent.

They will be joined by former Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick at the induction ceremonies July 24 in Cooperstown. The longtime executive was picked last month by the Veterans Committee.

Smart and athletic on the field, Alomar also was guilty in one of the game’s most boorish moments. He spat 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.”

Blyleven, known for his wicked curveball, had 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts and 60 shutouts. This was his 14th time on the ballot and his career stats have got 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 on a conference call. “I’d like to thank the Baseball Writers of America for, I’d like to say, finally getting it right.”

Sluggers Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Jeff Bagwell and Juan Gonzalez fared poorly in the election. Hall voters, for now, apparently seem reluctant to choose bulky hitters who posted big numbers in the 1990s and 2000s.

“The writers are saying this was the steroids era, like they’ve kind of done for Mark McGwire,” Blyleven said. “They’ve made their point. It doesn’t surprise me.”