Bert Blyleven is still fine-tuning his Hall of Fame speech. So is Roberto Alomar, and he might have the more difficult task when the two former major league stars enter baseball’s hallowed ground.
“It’s not going to be an easy one. I’m going to start in Spanish,” Alomar said Friday on a conference call, nine days before both will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. “After that, I’m going to finish in English. Hopefully, I can speak from my heart.
“I think your nerves are always going to take over. Your heart is going to be pumping, your knees shaking. It’s like Lou Gehrig said – I’m going to be the happiest man that day.”
Alomar’s signature moment figured to come a year earlier, but the switch-hitting second baseman who hit 210 home runs, drove in 1,134 runs, and batted .300, was bypassed in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame. This year he was named on 90 percent of ballots cast, becoming just the 26th player to garner at least 90 percent in any election.
“In life, you have to expect anything,” Alomar said. “A lot of people say I was supposed to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but there’s a lot of players that haven’t got that honor, either, like Joe DiMaggio. In the beginning, you were a little upset about it, but life goes on. It wasn’t meant to happen last year.”
That it didn’t happen most likely stemmed from an incident in a September 1996 game in Toronto’s SkyDome that tarnished Alomar’s stellar reputation.
Called out on a third strike by umpire John Hirschbeck on a pitch that appeared to be outside, the two argued and Alomar was ejected. Before he left the plate, Alomar spit in Hirschbeck’s face and was suspended for five games. Alomar worked to repair his image during the latter half of his major league career, which ended in 2004, and counts Hirschbeck as a good friend today.
For Blyleven, induction will cap a most memorable eight-day stretch. The Minnesota Twins, whom he helped to the 1987 World Series title in his second stint with the club, are retiring his No. 28 in a ceremony today.
“It’s kind of a nice stepping stone to the following weekend in Cooperstown. The honors are coming my way and it’s very, very nice,” Blyleven said. “My speech, I’m still working on it. To me, it’s a day of ‘thank you’ to so many people that mentored me.”
During his 22-year career, Blyleven won 287 games and lost 250, threw 60 shutouts (ninth all time) and logged 242 complete games, finishing his career in 1992 with 3,701 strikeouts (fifth all time).