There is something quaint about the annual Baseball Hall of Fame announcement. It’s almost like a pureness or something basic about it that all fans (and media types) should love, and that’s the fact that at some point it comes back to the game.
As Harry Kalas once told me, “It’s such a beautiful game,” and he was never more correct about anything in his life. Not to get all NPR-ish/baseball-as-a-metaphor-for-the-intrinsic-universe on you, but the beauty of it is what keep us rapt for 12 months of the year, year after year. Of course part of that is the simple joy of talking about the game and that’s what happened when the Baseball Writers Association of America announced that it had elected Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar to the Hall of Fame.
For the briefest of moments it was all about baseball again. Blyleven, the long-suffering righty with an otherworldly curveball and World Series rings from the Pirates and Twins, finally got the votes needed after falling five short in 2010. It was the 14th year Blyleven had been on the ballot with just one more chance remaining. Strangely enough, Blyleven got more than the mandatory 75 percent of the votes even though he got no better than 29 percent in his first six years on the ballot.
Just how does a guy go from drawing 17 percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility where he finished one spot behind Dave Parker (eliminated from the ballot after 15 years), to election to the Hall of Fame? Perhaps Blyleven is the perfect example of a player whose abilities got better and better the further he got from his playing days.
“I thank the [BBWAA] for, I’m going to say, finally getting it right,” Blyleven quipped during a conference call on Wednesday afternoon.
Alomar, meanwhile, was the best second baseman of his generation. He could hit for power, average and was the Gold Glove winner every year from 1991 to 2001 save for 1997. He went to 12 All-Star Games where he started in nine of them and, most importantly, his teams won. Alomar’s teams went to the layoffs seven times and with the Blue Jays in 1992 and 1993 he won the World Series.
Phillies fans will remember Alomar getting 12 hits in the ’93 series with a .480 batting average and six RBIs. He also is linked to the Phillies through newly elected Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, whose shrewdest move might have been the trade with the Padres before the 1991 season in which the Blue Jays got Alomar and Joe Carter for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff. Better yet, that trade might be the last true blockbuster considering the four players combined for 25 All-Star Game selections, eight World Series appearances and six rings.