COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Roberto Alomar stared at the adoring crowd and was nearly rendered speechless. Bert Blyleven was more composed but moved nonetheless as he stared at his 85-year-old mother and reminisced about his late father.
Both men were inducted Sunday into the Baseball Hall of Fame along with savvy front-office executive Pat Gillick.
Speaking first in his native Spanish, Alomar, the third Puerto Rican player to be enshrined along with Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Clemente, said he felt proud to be a Puerto Rican.
“I always played for my island,” Alomar said while dozens of Puerto Rican flags blew in a gentle breeze on a sunny afternoon. “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.
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Blyleven, the first Dutch-born player to be enshrined, thanked his parents for the drive and determination he needed to succeed.
Blyleven’s father, Joe, who died of Parkinson’s in 2004, 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, the genesis of his son’s Hall of Fame career.
“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.”
Gillick, a left-handed pitcher in college, said he knew he had to find another way to stay in the game after five years in the minor leagues. He found it in the front offices of four major league teams, including Seattle, winning 1992 and 1993 titles with Toronto and a 2008 title with Philadelphia.
“It was pretty clear my arm wasn’t going to get me to the majors,” Gillick said. “Then I guess luck took over.”