Canadian invasion in Cooperstown

Former Major League Baseball stars Roberto Alomar (C) and Bert Blyleven (R) stand with former...

Former Major League Baseball stars Roberto Alomar (C) and Bert Blyleven (R) stand with former General Manager Pat Gillick (L) after the three were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, July 24, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:55 PM ET

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- If memory serves correctly, and mine does not always of late, this is the 18th time I've been to Cooperstown.

A total of 18 times for inductions, meetings and games since 1978 when future Pittsburgh Pirate Doug Frobel was a young buck playing third base for the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians.

The town is still quaint, still picturesque and it still seems as if the mayor passed a bylaw visitors must walk down Main Street wearing a T-shirt of his or her favourite team or player as it was in the 1970s.

In other words, it looked like the Bronx:

New York Yankees caps and T-shirts, pin-striped jerseys.

Every where.

They dominated representation from the other 29 teams.

That all changed this weekend.

There were dark blue tops, white jerseys, baby blue tops, red Canada day tops -- all with BLUE JAYS cresting on them.

Robbie Alomar may have a few relatives, but no way on earth he has 100s and 100s of cousins, nephews all sporting Jays tops.

On induction day there were Minnesota Twins fans for Bert Blyleven and there were Yankees fans.

But they were outnumbered and out yelled by a loud Canadian crowd as Robbie Alomar became the first Blue Jay to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Pat Gillick, the general manager of the Jays for 11 consecutive winning seasons, capped by World Series wins in 1992-93.

Sunday had a Vancouver Olympics-like feel to it with an estimated crowd of 17,500.

Fans went into their storage for this day.

We saw a Roger Clemens blue top with a red uniform No. 21, a Carlos Delgado No. 21, an No. 12 Ernie Whitt, the Philadelphia Phillies instructor, and an Erik Hanson No. 39.

Each time Alomar or Gillick mentioned the words "Canada" or "Blue Jays" people cheered.

It was from the heart.

Soon as the video showed Dennis Eckersley going into his wind up in 1992 they cheered.

When Gillick thanked "fans from Canada for coming" they cheered.

There was not any stadium prompt flashing "MAKE NOISE!"

Canadians celebrated Alomar and Gillick's election.

Like Ed Samuel wearing a white Jays top, a season ticket holder (section 227) since 1977.

"It was nice to see how many people came from Canada," said Samuel, who worked in the cosmetics accessory business for 46 years.

Samuel and his son Barry were on a never-to-be-forgotten father-and-son trip.

"People ask me how can you like baseball so much? I get a charge out of it. I got a charge out of this afternoon," Samuel said. "I was in Vancouver for the Olympics, there a whole country celebrated success. I know the Blue Jays represent the whole country, I'm here for my city.

"I was at the all-star game in 1991, all the World Series games, but this is something different. It's so great to finally have a player wearing a Jays logo in the Hall of Fame."

Like late Saturday night after the Hall of Fame had closed, we saw three teenagers taking turns posing for pictures with a bat in front the Hall's main doors.

All wore light blue Alomar jerseys.

A picture they'll look at in 20 years and recall Canada weekend in Cooperstown.

A T-shirt was on sale extolling the names of hall of famers to wear a Blue Jays uniform with names like Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, Phil Niekro and Gillick.

Only Alomar sports a Jays logo.

Like Aaron Durant and boyfriend Bradley Penner of Coben, Ont., wearing matching Alomar tops.

"He was my favorite growing up," Durant said. "I bought this book where you could write major leaguers. I wrote Robbie lots and lots of letters asking for autographed baseballs.

"He never wrote back -- but I'm not sure whether my parents ever mailed the letters."

Penner was sporting an official Alomar No. 12 purchased in 1992.

"It's a lender, I have to give it back," Pender said.

The Canuck crowd was into the day from the time jazz vocalist Dana Marcine sang Oh Canada, singing loud and proud, until Marcine gave her own interpretation of the song.

No interpretation the love fans had for Alomar and Gillick was needed.


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