Multicultural pride beaming in Cooperstown

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 25, 2011 - 12:17 AM

Roberto Alomar from Puerto Rico, former Toronto GM Pat Gillick and the Hall's first Dutchman made for smiles all around.

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The class of 2011 includes Pat Gillick, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, who posed for photos at the end of the ceremony. Alomar, who began his speech in Spanish, was cheered by both Puerto Ricans and Canadians.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - The 2011 Hall of Fame inductions presented baseball at its multicultural best.

Bert Blyleven became the first Dutch-born player to enter the baseball Hall, and he entered along with a general manager who built the only World Series champions from Canada, and a second baseman from Puerto Rico.

Pat Gillick worked as GM for Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia, earning a reputation within the game as a humble genius.

Roberto Alomar became one of the most gifted players of his generation, and helped Gillick win those titles with the Blue Jays.

"I'm sorry I'm late," Alomar said Sunday, after the inductees made their speeches and Alomar was swamped by well-wishers from his homeland. "But I got caught in a Puerto Rican parade."

Gillick and Alomar belonged on the same stage. In 1990, Gillick, in his first GM stint, traded Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to San Diego for Joe Carter and Alomar.

Alomar would become a perennial All-Star and Gold Glove winner and hit the home run that lifted the Jays to their first World Series appearance. Carter would hit the home run that ended the 1993 World Series.

Gillick had trouble controlling his emotions during the speech, and Alomar began his speech in Spanish, to the joy of the flag-waving Puerto Ricans in attendance.

"I always played for my island," Alomar said. "It is a true blessing to be able to share this moment with all of you. I have you in my heart. I am standing here today because of the fan support.

"To my family, to my fans, to all the Puerto Rican people ... and the game of baseball, you are and will always be my life and my love."

Alomar is the son of former big-leaguer Sandy Alomar Sr. and the brother of former Indians catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. Both were in here Sunday, and Sandy Jr. spoke of how Roberto would not only play baseball all day, he'd sleep-walk with a bat in his hand.

"He was always playing," Sandy Jr. said.

Blyleven backed that up, saying that when he played with Sandy Sr. in Texas, Roberto would play with Blyleven's sons.

"From the moment we got to the ballpark, they'd be playing ball," Blyleven said. "We never had to wonder where our kids were. They couldn't get enough of baseball."

Alomar is the third native of Puerto Rico to be inducted, along with Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Clemente. Gillick, much like former Twins GM Terry Ryan, entered scouting when he realized his pitching arm wouldn't carry him to the majors.

Gillick recalled climbing into a tree and watching players with binoculars, so as not to tip off other scouts. He also lamented the modern culture of scouting and management, saying that teams now want to hit "a home run" with every trade. "I liked making deals that helped both teams."

His record proves that he's being modest. He won two Series with Toronto, another with the Phillies, and built the Seattle team that won 116 games.

While Gillick choked up when talking about colleagues and family, Alomar tearfully thanked his parents and siblings, and even one of the Hall of Famers sitting behind him on the stage -- Tony Gwynn, with whom he played in San Diego.

"Tony Gwynn gave me my first pair of shoes, so thank you for being so nice to me when I was a rookie," Alomar said. "I still have those shoes at home."

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