COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Roberto Alomar stared at the adoring crowd and was nearly rendered speechless, the tawdry episode of his stellar career long since forgotten. 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 front-office guru 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 of his nationality.
"I always played for my island," Alomar said, dozens of Puerto Rican flags blowing 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.
"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."
The switch-hitting Alomar won a record 10 Gold Gloves at second base, was a 12-time All-Star and hit .300 for his career. He's also linked with one of the game's most forgettable moments, when he spit on umpire John Hirschbeck during an argument in 1996.
The two have long since moved past that, and Hirschbeck was invited to come Sunday. He had to decline because he was working a game in St. Louis.
Blyleven, the first Dutch-born player to be enshrined, thanked his parents for the drive and determination he needed to succeed.
His amazing curveball frustrated batters in his 22-year career, and he finished with 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts, 60 shutouts and World Series rings in 1979 with the Pirates and 1987 in his second stint with Minnesota.
Still, his path toward the Hall was a slow one. On his 14th try he became the first pure starting pitcher to be selected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America since Nolan Ryan in 1999.
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."