Canadian hall first for Alomar

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:03 PM ET

ST. MARYS, Ont. -- Twenty years ago, Roberto Alomar was snoozing in his San Diego digs when the best news of his baseball career would be delivered.

At the time, it wasn't framed as such sensational stuff.

"My agent called and asked, 'Are you sleeping,'" said the guy who would go on to become the best player to wear the Toronto Blue Jays uniform, "and I said, 'It's six in the morning. What do you think?' He told me I wasn't going to like what I hear. I better sit down. He said you've just been traded to Toronto.

"And I said OK, where's Toronto?"

These are the kinds of conversations on which back-to-back World Series titles are born.

The geography lesson, Alomar said after being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame along with workhorse reliever Paul Quantrill, late Minnesota Twins owner Calvin Griffith and deceased statistician Allan Roth on Saturday in St. Marys, was provided by dad Sandy.

"He told me it's part of the game (to be traded)," Alomar recalled from that pivotal Dec. 5, 1990, deal that sent him and Joe Carter north from San Diego for powerful Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez, "and he said you're going to a great city, a great team, a great organization and you'll play for one of the best managers you've ever seen (in Cito Gaston).

"My father was right. I am blessed to have been able to play in Canada, and though some of you won't believe me, this is one of the happiest days of my life."

Under the big tent at the biggest ball induction ceremony north of Cooperstown (where Alomar will be heading if he gets eight more votes in his second year of eligibility), Alomar addressed Jays president Paul Beeston and GM Pat Gillick, who wasn't standing pat when he pulled off that move with the Padres.

"Toronto wouldn't have won the World Series without these two guys," Alomar said, "and maybe now, the Jays will give me a job."

No one works the angles better than Alomar. He's as slick at asking for work as he was stabbing grounders in the hole.

Everyone always wonders how Paul Quantrill, the pride of Port Hope, Ont., how he developed the rubber arm that helped the former Blue Jay, in 2004, become the Yankees' club leader in appearances.

His high school coach Larry Cockroft, who introduced his former player on induction day, found out the hard way with a well-tossed snowball to the nether regions. Even in Grade 9, Quantrill had great aim and a strong love of the game -- matching strikes against Michigan counterpart John Smoltz in tournaments and catching and pitching all day during tripleheaders.

"Most of my career memories aren't on the field, but the life-long relationships (with people like Cockroft) I've had the pleasure to build," Quantrill said. "No one enjoyed playing the game more than I did. In hockey in this country, there seems to be a lot of pressure, a lot of push. I didn't feel that push in baseball.

"My parents let me have fun."

Quantrill recalled, as a young pro pitcher, "those clowns" Frank Viola and Roger Clemens hiding his books while he tried to study to finish his degree.

"I never considered pro ball until I realized those crazy Americans would pay me to play," he said. "I was always education first. I played ball (at Wisconsin-Madison) because I found out those crazy Americans would pay for my schooling to play."

Fitting for Father's Day weekend, there were strong dad-son overtures.

Young Robertito Alomar stood alongside his dad at the podium. Quantrill's son Calvin, a member of the Whitby bantams, had a game with a St. Marys squad scheduled for right after the inductions.

Clark Griffith accepted the induction on behalf of his dad, the late Twins owner born Calvin Robertson born to a poor family in Montreal but later adopted by his uncle Clark Griffith.

The senior Clark owned the Washington Senators until his death in 1955. Calvin took over and moved the team to Minnesota.

Washington would eventually get a team again -- the Nationals -- strangely enough from Griffith's home town of Montreal.

Charles Bronfman, who donated $500,000 to the ball hall Saturday, introduced Griffith for induction. The former Expos owner held steadfast to the belief that venue meant everything to the team staying put.

"The Expos would still be in Montreal if the 32,500-seat park was built downtown instead of that monster -- the concrete jungle -- called Olympic Stadium," Bronfman said.

Almost everything in baseball eventually moves. The Canadian ball hall, for one, has designs on moving into bigger museum and dorm space at the soon-to-be-vacated Central school in St. Marys.

Even the team author Roger Kahn immortalized in his "The Boys of Summer" book -- the Brooklyn Dodgers -- moved to Los Angeles. Allan Roth, the late Montreal-born statistician and precursor to the sabremetric way of looking at the game by numbers, followed them out west.

Star players such as Carl Erskine and Duke Snider said the ballclub had a way of using Roth's numbers to leave them begging for their jobs back the following year.

Kahn shared one example when Dodgers manager Charlie Dressen sat out Roy Campanella one game because of his poor record against a tall side-arming pitcher from Cincinnati.

Campanella complained to the writers he didn't know why he was benched because he always hit that guy good.

Dressen asked Roth to find out Campy's career numbers against the pitcher.

"I'll have it for you in a minute," the industrious Roth said.

And he did: 2-for-68 lifetime.

Sorry, Campy.

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