Alomar's time to shine

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:02 PM ET

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- It was a pair of cleats.

It may as well have been a torch.

Passed from one San Diego Padres future hall of famer to another.

"I remember when I was a minor leaguer, Tony Gwynn gave me a pair of new shoes," said Robbie Alomar, the first Blue Jay to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon.

"Man, I wore those shoes down to the heel. In the spring, minor leaguers finish after the big leaguer game. I'd come by and there would be Tony hitting off the tee or in the cage."

Alomar said he had a lot of his work ethic from his father Sandy, as well as Gwynn.

Gwynn remembers Dec. 5, 1990 very well, the date the Padres shipped Joe Carter and Alomar to the Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez.

"People were upset, our fans loved both of them," Gwynn said. "Fred came in and did well. Tony was an all-star team for us. We got two productive guys. Toronto got two World Series championships.

"Robbie blossomed after we traded him to Toronto."

Now, Gwynn and Alomar share the same place in history.

Except the logo on Gwynn's plaque reads 'SD.' Alomar is the first with a Jays logo.

"It is an honour to go in with a Blue Jays cap," Alomar told reporters. "I played five years with the Jays. Wearing that hat means a lot to me. The fans embraced me."

As for Blyleven's logo, he's unsure if it will be a "TC" (for Twins Cities) or a "M" (Minnesota) that he wore when Minnesota won the 1987 World Series.

The three inductees don't see their plaques until after the induction ceremony, during which we can hope Blyleven, a noted practical joker, slips a whoopee cushion under Bud Selig's seat.

Pat Gillick and Alomar were together four years with the Jays, three with the Baltimore Orioles and "he even tried to sign me when I was 14, but I wasn't old enough."

Gillick said he'd been watching Alomar a lot earlier than that.

"I saw his dad Sandy play with the Atlanta Braves in 1966, then Sandy was with the Yankees when I was there. Sandy would bring both his kids to the park," Gillick said. "That was about 1975 ... I thought he had pretty good blood lines."

Alomar did the math. He was 7.

"We made a big push in Puerto Rico and lost to San Diego. I saw him at Reno in 1986, watching our club (class-A Ventura) in the California League, so I guess he was in the front of my mind," Gillick said.

While most remember Carter's homer to win the 1993 World Series as the most memorable homer in franchise history, Gillick said "as big a blow was Robbie's against Dennis Eckersley," in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

Big homer

"I'm not sure we would have won without it," Gillick said.

Here in Cooperstown, Alomar has spent time with his parents, mom Maria, brother Sandy and his children, sister Sandia and daughter Maria Alejandra, mostly inside the resort.

"But I love this town, I may buy a house here, is there a real estate guy out there?" Alomar asked.

Alomar, the best position player I ever saw on a daily basis, should have been elected a year ago. Instead he was eight votes short.

The main reason was a spitting incident with home plate umpire John Hirschbeck at the end of the 1996 when Alomar was an Oriole. The SkyDome switch board lit up with fans wanting the Jays to suspend Alomar, who eventually sat five games.

The boos continued when he returned.

"The boos ended ... when I retired," said Alomar. "It didn't matter if they booed me, I loved fans. My father told me fans never boo OK players, they boo great players. If they boo you, you're doing good.

"From now on it's going to be all class."

Said Gillick: "Canadians like to be proud of their athletes, this is a feel good story for fans in Toronto and across the country."


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