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July 24, 2011

It's Official! Alomar, Blyleven and Gillick Get Inducted

"Only the top one percent makes the Hall of Fame."
National Basball Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark

From Yogi Berra to Rickey Henderson, Sandy Koufax to Tony Gwynn…all the game’s greats were there.

In fact, 47 of the 65 living Hall of Famers were in attendance Sunday to watch Cooperstown’s Class of 2011 get inducted and true to form, the ceremony did not disappoint.

"My time in Toronto was the best of my career," baseball’s newest Hall of Famer, second baseman Roberto Alomar told the Blue Jays fans in the crowd.  "You embraced me from day one, you worked with me throughout my ups and downs, and I am so proud to represent you as the first Toronto Blue Jay inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame."

In 2010, Alomar missed induction by just eight votes. His 73.7% of the vote was the highest percentage of votes in any player's first year on the ballot without being elected.

A year later, he would receive 90% of the vote.

Alomar finished his big league career with more Gold Gloves (ten) than any other second baseman out there, a .300 batting average, 2724 hits and two World Series rings.

He is the third Puerto Rican in the Hall of Fame, after Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda.

Fellow inductee Bert Blyleven’s road to the Hall of Fame was a little bumpier than Alomar’s. It took the former pitcher 14 tries to get in.

In 1999, the hurler’s second year on the ballot, he mustered only 14.1% of the vote…a far cry from the 79.7% he received this past January.

It’s been a great couple of weeks for the former pitcher. During a recent game, the Minnesota Twins retired Blyleven’s number.

For his career, he amassed 287 wins, 3701 strikeouts (good for fifth all-time), an equally impressive 60 shutouts and a 3.31 ERA. Not too shabby for 22 big league seasons.

And while much of the day’s attention was focused on Alomar, Blyleven and one of the game’s finest general managers, Pat Gillick, there was a tribute to those Hall of Famers who have passed since last year’s induction…Bob Feller, Sparky Anderson, Duke Snider, Harmon Killebrew and Dick Williams.

"I don't even feel like being here," Hall of Famer Johnny Bench said of his missing colleagues. "I'm doing it for Bert and Roberto. It's just the worst year ever.”

Also noticeably absent was 2003 inductee Gary Carter who could not make it to Cooperstown because he is in Florida battling glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer.

But that didn’t stop him from reaching out to Blyleven on the eve of the pitcher’s big day.

"He apologized because he couldn't be here," Blyleven told The New York Post. "It was pretty touching."

So, with the 2011 induction now in the books…is it time to start looking ahead to next year’s induction ceremony?

With no shoe-ins among the first ballot guys, will 12-time All-Star Barry Larkin make his way in? Will we see anyone at the podium?

Only time will tell.

But until then, let’s not be so quick to push Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick off the Clark Sports Center stage. It’s still 2011. It’s still their year to shine.

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