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Patience pays off for baseball's new honorees

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Bert Blyleven knows what took him to where he has been and where he's headed: his heritage.

"I'm Dutch, I'm stubborn. I think it's the stubbornness, the consistency. You take the good with the bad," said Blyleven, 60, the first player born in the Netherlands to earn Major League Baseball's highest honor: election to the Hall of Fame.

"I came up at a young age. I retired at an old age. I was one of only three pitchers to win a game before their 20th (birthday) and after their 40th. It's just loving a game that you felt that you could compete at the highest level."

Blyleven, who won 287 games in a 22-year career, will be inducted today with second baseman Roberto Alomar and front-office guru Pat Gillick.

"I'm going to be in awe," Blyleven said. "We all have dreams as kids. You don't know where it's going to head."

Despite his accomplishments, Blyleven watched and waited for what must have seemed like a lifetime before he was selected. It took 14 tries for him to finally cross the 75 percent threshold.

"At first he was angry and he kind of vented, but after a while we got to where it was like a given," said Blyleven's wife, Gayle. "So we'd tell the local people we were out of town and we weren't.

"We didn't want to hear about the disappointment. (In 2010) we were so surprised that he jumped so high, we weren't angry at all. It was amazing. It just shows you how the writers have your destiny and how hard it is (to get in)."

Alomar also had to bide his time, albeit briefly. His failure to become the fourth second baseman and 45th player to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer was the result of one blemish: a spray of saliva in a September 1996 game in Toronto's SkyDome.

Called out on strikes by umpire John Hirschbeck, Alomar argued and was ejected. Before he left, he spit in Hirschbeck's face and was suspended for five games.

Alomar and Hirschbeck have since made peace, and Alomar is focused on the task at hand.

"I feel like a kid, a kid that is dreaming of playing the game of baseball," Alomar, 43, said. "Now, I'm going to be standing beside the greatest players that ever played this game, and I cannot believe that I'm one of them. It's been a long journey."

.FAST FACTS

Induction Ceremony

What: Former players Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven and general manager Pat Gillick will be inducted today into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

When/where: 1:30 p.m.; Clark Sports Center at the Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, N.Y.

TV: MLB Network

Patience pays off for baseball's new honorees 07/23/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 23, 2011 7:03pm]
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