Gillick heads to Baseball Hall of Fame

Pat Gillick is headed to the Hall of Fame after putting together three World Series championship teams, two of them with the Toronto Blue Jays, in 27 years as a major league general manager.

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick.

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Pat Gillick is headed to the Hall of Fame after putting together three World Series championship teams, two of them with the Toronto Blue Jays, in 27 years as a major league general manager. The Halls’ doors were shut for George Steinbrenner and Marvin Miller, a pair of far more divisive figures.

Gillick received 13 votes from the 16-man Veterans Committee in totals announced Monday as the winter meetings began.

Miller, the union head who revolutionized sports by gaining baseball players free agency and multimillion dollar salaries, got 11 — one shy of the necessary 75 per cent.

Steinbrenner, who left an indelible imprint on baseball as the New York Yankees blustery and colourful owner from 1973 until his death in July, received fewer than eight.

“Some people thought it’s too early,” said Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, a member of the committee.

Gillick was GM of Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia, winning World Series titles with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993, and with the Phillies in 2008. He thanked all the people he’s worked with over the years.

“It all goes back to the players they have on the field,” he said. “I could stand in the middle of the field and four million people aren’t going to show up.”

Gillick will be inducted into Cooperstown during ceremonies on July 24 along with any players chosen next month by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Roberto Alomar, who helped Gillick’s Blue Jays win two World Series, also could be inducted. Alomar fell eight votes shy last January in his first season of eligibility.

“I think it would be tremendous,” said Gillick.

“I think he’s well-deserving. Probably he’s the best second baseman that I’ve seen all-around, defensively and offensively, probably in the last 20 years. It would be a thrill if he did make it and that we could both go in at the same time.”

Gillick is the 32nd executive elected but only the fourth who was primarily a team architect, according to the Hall, joining Ed Barrow, Branch Rickey and George Weiss.

“His skill for identifying talent and knowing how to build a successful roster is exceptional,” said baseball commissioner Bud Selig. “Pat has always believed in scouting and player development, and I know that he will accept this extraordinary honour on behalf of all the scouts he has worked with throughout his career.”

Now 73, Gillick is the son of minor league pitcher Larry Gillick. Pat Gillick pitched in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization from 1959-63. Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog, a member of this year’s Veterans Committee, remembered Gillick as “a wild lefty.”

Gillick started with the Houston Colt .45s-Astros from 1963-73, then was the Yankees scouting director from 1974-76. He served as GM of Toronto (1977-94), Baltimore (1996-98), Seattle (2000-03) and Philadelphia (2006-08). He currently is a Phillies senior adviser.

“This is a well deserved award for a gentleman that I had the pleasure of working with since he joined the Blue Jays in 1976 to prepare for our inaugural season in 1977,” club president Paul Beeston said in a release.

“Pat helped to build a great organization in Toronto through scouting and development before turning to free agency to complement the roster and bring World Series Championships to Canada in 1992 and 1993.”

Gillick rejected the statistical Sabermetric approach used by some current GMs.

“I think you have to watch the game,” he said. “

The statistics tell you one thing and they don’t want anything happening emotionally on the field or anything on the field to really tinker with those statistics sometimes. So I think you have to use both. … I think you have to see the player and you have to see him on the field — how he plays the game. Is he intense? Does he have passion? Get his body language. See how he interacts with the other players on the team.”

Miller appeared on the ballot for the fifth time and came the closest this year. The 93-year-old remains controversial, and the committee included four representatives from management, a side that repeatedly lost to Miller’s union as players gained freedom: Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, an outspoken opponent of the players’ association; Kansas City Royals owner David Glass, the former chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a company that has fought with labour unions; former Phillies owner Bill Giles, whose notes in a collusion case helped players gain a US$280 million settlement; and Orioles President Andy MacPhail, grandson of Hall of Fame executive Larry MacPhail and son of former AL President Lee MacPhail.

“A long time ago, it became apparent that the Hall sought to bury me long before my time, as a metaphor for burying the union and eradicating its real influence,” Miller said in a statement.

Selig publicly favoured both Steinbrenner and Miller for election.

“What a travesty. I just feel so sorry for Marvin. It’s embarrassing to all of us who care about baseball,” former Commissioner Fay Vincent said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “The Marvin decision is stupefying.

Donald Fehr, who succeeded Miller as union head, called it “a sad day for anyone who is or has been a major league player” and criticized the committee, saying the decision “says more about them than it does about Marvin.” Current union head Michael Weiner expressed “frustration, disappointment and sadness” and said the Hall “once again squandered a chance to better itself as an institution.”

Miller received 44 per cent in 2003 and 63 per cent in 2007 when all Hall of Famers could vote on the veterans panel. After the Hall downsized the committee, he got 3 of 12 votes in 2007 — when seven members were from management — and 7 of 12 last year.

“Maybe next time,” said Tony Perez, among seven Hall of Fame players on the committee, which also included Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog and four media representatives.

Miller, who led the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1966-81, considers the turndowns a unique form of recognition.

“I and the union of players have received far more support, publicity, and appreciation from countless fans, former players, writers, scholars, experts in labour management relations, than if the Hall had not embarked on its futile and fraudulent attempt to rewrite history,” he said. “It is an amusing anomaly that the Hall of Fame has made me famous by keeping me out.”

Vincent, who suspended Steinbrenner for paying a gambler to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield, also thinks the late Yankees owner should be inducted but that denial bothers him less.

“I don’t have the same passion about that,” Vincent said. “I think he’ll get in at some time.”

Steinbrenner also was suspended by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn following a guilty plea to conspiring to make illegal contributions to the re-election campaign of President Richard Nixon. The suspensions, and jealousy at the Yankees’ wealth, could have been factors in the decision.

“It’s kind of like, if Glass had $200 million a year in Kansas City, he’d probably be a winner, too,” Bench said.