Baseball may not receive all the fan-fair that football, or even basketball, receive but it is as deeply tied to America as the apple pie and mom and it deserves the respect of sports fans everywhere. It's a classic sport that has helped get this country through some of the worst times in its history. On Sunday, the sport honored some of its own as it inducted three people into its Hall of Fame.
Two players, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven, as well as front-office guru Pat Gillick, were inducted Sunday for there contributions to the rich history of this game.
Alomar, a fierce switch-hitter who won a record 10 Gold Gloves at second base, was a 12-time All-Star and a career .300 hitter. He is the third Puerto Rican player to be enshrined, along with Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Clemente, and honored his heritage by opening his speech in his native Spanish.
"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 went on to thank his mom, his dad, Sandy Alomar Sr. (who played 15 years in the minor leagues), and his big brother, Sandy Jr. (a catcher who played in the majors for two decades but was hampered by injuries).
"My mom is the most wonderful person in my life," Alomar said as he looked down at his mother, her teary face buried in a handkerchief. "She gave me love. She took me to the ballpark, even though I was a little boy running around, hanging around. Mom, thank you for everything that you have done for me. If I'm standing here today, it's because of you.
"And to my parents, thank you for teaching me how to be a humble person. That's what counts."
Next up was Blyleven, the first Dutch player to ever be enshrined. He was a pitcher whose amazing curveball frustrated batters in his 22-year career. He finished with 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts, 60 shutouts and a pair of World Series rings
Blyleven credited his father for the success and the drive he had. His father fell in love with baseball and the Dodgers after the family moved to Southern California in the late 1950s and built a mound in the backyard. He passed in 2004, a victim of Parkinson's.
"I wish he was here," said Blyleven, who in the past had regretted not being selected for the Hall while his father was still alive. "But you know, mom, I know he's up there looking down right now. Mommy, I love you."
Blyleven then went on to honor some of the other greats of the game who had passed in recent years.
"I know in my heart that Harmon Killebrew, Willie Stargell, Bob Feller, Chuck Tanner and Kirby Puckett are looking down at all of us right now," Blyleven said, adding a special thought for Hall of Famer Gary Carter, who's battling brain cancer. "Gary, keep battling the way that you always have."
Gillick finished up the trio and was the only one who didn't leave his mark on the field. While he did have a small career in the minor leagues, Gillick really shone as a General Manager. In his 27 years as a GM, his teams posted a winning record 20 times with 11 postseason appearances.
"It was pretty clear my arm wasn't going to get me to the majors," Gillick said. "Then I guess luck took over."
There were three other awards given out at the induction ceremony. Dave Van Horne, longtime play-by-play man for the Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins, received the Ford C. Frick Award for his contributions in broadcasting; Philadelphia sports writer and columnist Bill Conlin was given the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious service in print baseball coverage; and Roland Hemond received the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS