The San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays executed a groundbreaking trade on December 5, 1990, that shook the foundation of both organizations–little did the Padres know, they were trading away a future Hall of Famer.
San Diego sent 2B Roberto Alomar and OF Joe Carter to Toronto for 1B Fred McGriff and SS Tony Fernandez. While Alomar would spent just five seasons north of the border before playing with five different teams over the span of the next nine seasons. Those five years in Toronto, though, represented the team at their peak.
Backed by his usual Gold Glove-calibre defence, Alomar helped the Jays win back-to-back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993.
“Every Blue Jay who is privileged enough to wear this uniform has your standard to live up to.” – Blue Jays’ infielder John McDonald.
For one to be eligible for Cooperstown enshrinement, candidates must be voted in on 75% of ballots–Alomar fell eight votes short in 2010. Alomar was involved in one of baseball’s ugly moments in 1996, likely causing many to balk at voting him into the Hall. As a member of the Baltimore Orioles in 1996, he was suspended after spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck during a dispute in Toronto. The two later buried the hatchet, and is merely water under the bridge at this point in time.
In fact, Alomar and Burt Blyleven, one of the other four members inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, fell short of induction in 2010 by fewer than 10 votes—the first time in history that two candidates had done so in the same election.
In 2011, however, it was an entirely new ball game. He garnered 90% of the votes this year, as well as with 523 votes, good for third highest of all-time. As of July 24, Roberto Alomar became just the 17th second baseman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He was the first to be voted in by the writers since 2005, when Ryne Sandberg made it, and only the fourth since Jackie Robinson in 1962.
Robbie became the first player inducted as a Toronto Blue Jay in the team’s 35-year history.
“I appreciate your support. I played the game of baseball because it was my passion and I love and respect the game so much. I wanted to be the best and I played the game only one way–to win.”
On July 31, 2011, Alomar also had his number retired by the organization. As he made his way through the stands, accompanied by a pair of RCMP officers, Alomar hugged, shook hands and took pictures with fans. He stepped onto a stage in shallow centre field, where a giant No. 12 banner covered second base. Family, friends and former teammates stood and congratuled the Hall of Famer as a crowd of 45,629 began chanting “Robbie! Robbie!”
“I predict it will be many years before another number is even considered (for retirement).” – former Jays’ president and CEO Paul Beeston.
The first 20,000 people through the turnstiles at the Rogers Centre also received a commemorative bobblehead (except for me, I got two). Alomar is best remembered for his ninth-inning home run in Game 4 of the 1992 American League Championship Series off Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley. The homerun tied the game, and helped propel the team to their first ever World Series.
“When I was a little boy I never expected to have my number retired. I just played the game I love.”
“When I was traded to Toronto I was blessed to come and play for a great city, a great organization, and to me, the greatest manager (Cito Gaston).”
Over the course of his 17-year career, Alomar was a 12-time All-Star and 10 Gold Glove winner. His .984 fielding percentage is the highest of any player at his position in American League history. His induction plaque says he “set the standard for a generation of second basemen.” During his jersey retirement speech, Alomar offered a piece of advice he was given when making his way through baseball:
“My mom and dad taught me it doesn’t matter how much money you earn, what you achieve or how much of a celebrity you are — always be humble, and that’s who I am.”
A switch-hitter, Alomar batted .300 over a 17-season career with the Padres, Blue Jays, Orioles, Indians, Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks. He ended his career in 2004 with 2,724 hits, 210 home runs, 1,134 RBI, 1,508 runs, 474 steals and an on-base percentage of .371 in 2,379 games. Alomar’s .307 average remains the highest in Blue Jays history, and he also ranks second all-time in franchise steals. He was inducted into the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2008.
“This is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. To share this moment with the fans and my family is emotional.”
While some fans refuse to let go of the spitting incident 15 years ago, the numbers and World Series rings prove that Alomar was the best second baseman over the last 20 years, and one of the greatest to play in the four-spot in baseball history. His natural, God-given talent and brilliant baseball IQ made him the most complete second baseman of all-time.
“Robbie’s the greatest second baseman to ever play this game. We’d like to thank you Robbie, for all that you’ve done for us.” – Former Jays’ manager Cito Gaston.