So the stodgy old coots at the Baseball Writer’s Association of America had their annual 15 minutes of fame yesterday when they voted Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven into Cooperstown’s Big House as members of baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Candidates needed the approval of at least 75% of voters to earn their Hall passkey. Alomar, in his second year of eligibility, secured a 90% approval rating while Blyleven cleared the hurdle with 79.7 in his fourteenth attempt.
Alomar was an easy choice. A career .300 hitter, the second baseman won 10 straight Gold Gloves and was a 12 time All-Star. The only thing that kept him out last year, finishing 8 votes shy of the magic number, was one of those instantly regrettable moments of insanity (we’ve all had them, right?) ….as a Baltimore Oriole he spit on the face of umpire John Hirschbeck while arguing a called third strike. You can’t say Alomar wasn’t intense, huh? Hirschbeck forgave Alomar years ago and Roberto has been a generous donator of time and money to a charity near and dear to the ump. All good.
Blyleven, on the other hand, was an easy choice for some, but not all. His 22 year career record of 287 wins impressed many, but his 250 losses held others back. As one would expect, after 14 tries on the ballot, Blyleven had given his candidacy much thought and perspective and my guess is his summary is fairly representative of the why voters came around to his way of thinking…. ” You know, there’s so much more that goes into it — the 1-0 losses, the 1-0 wins or the 2-1 ballgames, all the no decisions. You can’t control as a pitcher, sometimes, wins. You can’t control losses. But what you can control is the innings you pitch, if you keep your club in the game, all those things,” Blyleven said. “It’s the consistency that’s important in so much of what you do in life, and I think for 22 years in a major league uniform I was very consistent.”
For me, who cares about the numbers? I have my own reason for loving that these two guys are in….they both played for my favorite baseball team….The Cleveland Indians!
I love the Tribe. I got introduced to them in the summer of 1977 when Smitty, Haskell, Steve Waltonski, Ghost and I drove to Cleveland from our rental home in Delaware, Ohio. We stayed with our friend Boz and caught a Tribe/Yankee doubleheader….which just happened to be “I Hate The Yankee Hankee Night”. We sat way up high in an empty stadium, waving our hankees and booing the hell out of all the Bronx Bums, especially Catfish Hunter, drinking beer and being stupid. Man, I was hooked.
In short time, Boz got a job with the Tribe and I was totally connected. I played wiffle ball in a Tribe batting helmet in NYC school yards and sported the shirts, T’s and jackets…he invited me to the 1981 All Star Game as one of his assistants and I was on the field during BP and in the press box during the game. I’d mooch tickets from him to Tribe games at Yankee Stadium and wear the Indians gear….and when things got desperate for us, would put on some warpaint (true story!) to spur the boys on. And we won more often than not, leaving me fearing for my life at the Stadium more often than not!
So I am really happy for those guys, to get their due, having watched them do their thing for my team. That said, they could not have had two more different experiences in Cleveland….
Blyleven played from 1981-1985, stolen from the Pittsburgh Pirates (even then they gave their players away) with catcher Manny Sanguillen for four nameless players who were essentially out of baseball within two years. He anchored a rotation that featured, through the years, John Denny, Wayne Garland, Rick Sutcliffe and “Mr. Perfect Game/Long, Lean, Loquacious” Lenny Barker. During Bert’s Cleveland time, the Tribe posted a 335-416 record and never finished better than 6th in the 7 team AL East. Who cared? They were fun! “Super Joe” Charboneau, Mike Hargrove, Toby Harrah, Andre “Thunder” Thornton, Ron “Babe” Hassey, Pat Tabler, Gorman Thomas, and youngsters Brook Jacoby, Mel Hall, Brett Butler and Joe Carter. They played in that cavernous wreck of a ball park situated right on Lake Erie, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, in front of an average home crowd of about 9,000 people. The place held 70,000 per game! I’d think players could hear people breathe! If you have forgotten how fun it could be rooting for a team like this, you need to watch “Major League” one more time.
Alomar, on the other hand, played in an entirely different Tribe era. As lean as things were in the 80’s, Cleveland was rockin’ in the late 90’s, having opened a new ballpark, Jacobs Field and making two, albeit losing, trips to the World Series in 1995 and 1997. Alomar was acquired via free agency after two playoff appearances in three years as an Oriole. He played in Cleveland for three years.
Twice they won their division in both the standings and total attendance, drawing 3.5 million for two straight seasons. Like past Tribe teams, this one had its share of stars as well….pitchers Bartolo Colon, a young CC Sabathia, Charles Nagy, Chuck Finley and 41-year-old knuckler Tom Candiotti. Alomar and Shortstop Omar Vizquel formed a highlight reel worthy double play combo for years and others who shared the field with them included Jim Thome, David Justice, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez and Juan Gonzalez. Sluggers a-plenty (and maybe some substance abuse too?)!
I have to admit though, the Blyleven era was much more fun as a Tribe fan. You knew you were going to lose, you just never knew how. And the wins, when they came, were so sweet! In Alomar’s time, everyone else had jumped on the Tribe bandwagon. Walking the NY streets, you’d frequently see the blue cap with the red bill, proudly fronted by a smiling Chief Wahoo. But they weren’t fans….they just dug the look.
When a player gets enshrined in the Hall, their image includes the cap of the team “where that player makes his most indelible mark” as selected solely by members of the Hall of Fame itself.
Well, if I had a vote in that, that’s an easy vote for me too. Forget the numbers and instead vote based on where their impact helped raise a bunch of suffering fans. Put those boys in the Tribe hat and call it day. Boz, if you need some help working those Hall guys, let me know. I’ll put on the warpaint and pay ’em a visit.
THE LAST BITE
Titans made the right call keeping Jeff Fisher over Vince Young. That means both 2006 Rose Bowl BCS championship game QBs….Matt Leinert and Vince, are seeking a starting role somewhere. I guess it can happen to anyone!