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July 26, 2011

Hall sticking with five-year waiting period for potential inductees


STAFF REPORT

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Contrary to a report in Monday's New York Post, the National Baseball Hall of Fame is not considering dropping the waiting period for players to be eligible for induction from five to three years.

Post columnist Kevin Kernan didn't quote anyone from Hall but wrote: "One reason Hall officials would want to shorten the waiting period is to make it a more 'immediate' event. There is a lot to be said for that because, why should sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famers have to wait five years?

"We're much more of a quick-response world, and a three-year waiting period would fit the bill. This five-year waiting period was first enacted in the 1950s. Times have changed."

Brad Horn, the Hall's senior director of communications and education, sent an email to several media outlets Monday.

It read in part: "I'm writing to point out an erroneous report in the New York Post today regarding the Hall of Fame's voting procedures and the five-year waiting period. This account of a proposed reduction in the five-year waiting period is entirely untrue."

Gillick remembers Nader

One of the first stops in newly inducted Baseball Hall of Fame member Pat Gillick's 46-year front office career involved working with the New York Yankees as a coordinator of player development from 1974-76.

As a member of the Yankees staff, Gillick said he came to Oneonta to visit the organization's Class A affiliate and interact with owner Sam Nader.

"Sam Nader was probably one of the most considerate owners that I ever worked with," Gillick said Saturday afternoon at an induction eve media conference at the Clark Sports Center.

"(Damaschke Field is) a very historic field," he continued. "Sam cared about the fans, he cared about the town of Oneonta, he cared about the ballplayers _ all our players. Sam was just terrific. And all our ballplayers that came through there really enjoyed playing in Oneonta. But he was really for me one of the pillars of the New York (Yankee) family, just a great guy, loved baseball and as I say loved the fans and loved the town very, very much."

Gillick sounded dismayed that Oneonta no longer has a professional team.

"I'm sorry to see that the club is no longer there," Gillick said of the Oneonta Tigers franchise, which moved to Norwich, Conn., in 2010.

Going Dutch

When 2011 baseball Hall of Fame Inductee Bert Blyleven was called up to the Minnesota Twins for his first season in 1970, he joined a formidable pitching staff that went on to win the American League West championship with pitchers such as veteran Jim Kaat.

Kaat, 72, said shortly before the Induction Ceremony at the Clark Sports Center on Sunday that he didn't need to offer Blyleven much advice.

"I never thought I really did anything particularly to help him," Kaat said. "What he looked at was the way I went about my business and how I prepared myself for each start, maybe how I handled myself mentally with wins and losses, didn't get too high, didn't get too low. I think as far as a tangible difference, I think the only thing I can ever remember helping him with is when he started a game, he'd get ready so fast and it seemed like sometimes in 8-10 minutes, he'd be ready to go and so I'd say, 'Whoa! Take a little more time between pitches particularly on a hot day because if you have a long first inning, boy that can wear you down.'"

Kaat, who spent 25 years in the big leagues, said he was proud of his fellow teammate and Dutch-American Blyleven.

"You ain't much if you ain't Dutch," Kaat said.

Crazy start

Blyleven's first five days in the big leagues were eventful.

He signed a professional contract with the Minnesota Twins out of high school in 1969 and was notified of a promotion to the majors June 1, 1970, while playing for Triple-A Evansville. Blyleven said during his induction speech he received a telegram that said: "To Bert Blyleven, welcome to the major leagues. ... Report to (manager Bill) Rigney immediately in Boston."

He flew that night and arrived in Boston at 1:30 a.m. Upon getting to the hotel, Blyleven asked the front desk for Rigney's room number. He knocked on the door and Rigney answered about five minutes later and said, "What are doing here?"

Blyleven, 19 years old at the time, told the manager the telegram said to report to him immediately.

Rigney then got a room list of everyone on the team and told Blyleven before he checked in to notify his teammates of his arrival and to report back to Rigney after he finished.

When Blyleven returned to Rigney's room, the manager asked, "Did you say hello to everybody?"

Blyleven replied, "I tried, but nobody was in yet. I made my manager a lot of money that night. I didn't make such good friends."

In preparation for his first league big-league start on June 5 against the Washington Senators, Blyleven said he got dressed quickly and ran down the tunnel, where he saw Rigney.

"Bert, are you nervous?" the manager asked.

Blyleven said, no.

The manager asked again.

This time, Blyleven wanted to know why Rigney he was asking.

"Listen, Bert, I don't know how you did it in high school and I don't how you did it in the minor leagues, but up here in the majors, we try to wear our athletic supporter on the inside," Blyleven recalled Rigney saying.

The first batter Blyleven faced in the majors was Lee Maye, who Blyleven said hit a 3-2 pitch about 400 feet to right for a home run.

"As a kid growing up, I collected bubble gum cards and I knew on the mound and I knew there was going to be a bubble gum card made, and as Lee Maye hit this home run of course he goes first to second, I have my head down, I'm frustrated already, my first major league batter hits a home run," he said.

Then Rigney came out and Blyleven said he thought his day was done.

"I'm thinking on the back of my bubble game card, it's going to say Bert Blyleven, 0-1 and an ERA of infinity," he said.

Rigney merely informed Blyleven that wasn't the last home run he would allow in the majors.

"The man was a genius," Blyleven said. "Over 22 years, I gave up 429 more."

They're saying "boooo"

Roberto Alomar said at Saturday's pre-Induction Ceremony media conference that the love the fans have for him as a player finally returned when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Blue Jay.

That love subsided when Alomar left the Blue jays as a free agent following the 1995 season to join the Baltimore Orioles.

"I think (the love returned) when I retired," Alomar said. "I always loved the Toronto Blue Jay fans. It doesn't matter if they boo me. I believe that they didn't understand what really happened. I think the media made it look like I left because maybe money or whatever it was. To me, it was an opportunity that I had with the Baltimore Orioles and Pat (Gillick) to win another championship."

Alomar said the fans didn't realize that the Blue Jays were making a switch to using younger players.

"When you're a ballplayer, you want to win, you want to win championships, and I think the Toronto Blue Jays wanted to take a different direction and they wanted to sign younger guys," Alomar said. "Maybe the fans didn't understand that, but to me the Toronto Blue Jays are the best."

Alomar said the boos never affected him. He said he learned how to handle that element of the game from his famous baseball father, Sandy Alomar Sr.

"My father always gave me advice," Alomar said. "He said, 'Fans never boo OK players, fans boo the great players.' That's right. So if they boo you, that means that you're doing something good, and that's the way I took it. I have a lot of respect for them. Toronto is always in my heart. It doesn't matter if they boo me or clap for me. I know from now on it's going to be all claps (from the fans)."

For the record

Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners won the 2010 American League Cy Young Award despite finishing with a 13-12 record.

Blyleven said Saturday that Hernandez winning the Cy Young Award is proof that award voters look beyond a pitcher's won-lost record.

"I think in the new era that we are in with computers and twigging or twatting, whatever they are doing with these things, all that other stuff, there's so much more research out there," Blyleven said. "... I think writers hopefully are seeing that wins are hard to come by, they are out of your control at times as far as the Cy Young award, but numbers don't lie."

Selig takes hits

Bill Conlin showed no love for Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig in his Hall of Fame Awards Presentation speech on Saturday at Doubleday Field.

The 2011 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner accused Selig of turning a blind eye to steroids.

"The 21st century began under a chemical cloud," Conlin said. "Everybody but Bud Selig was suspected of juicing. All Bud ever juiced was the cash registers of 30 clubs. Baseball has managed to thrive during the worst economy since The Great Depression, despite the absence of a salary cap."

Selig was not observed clapping when Conlin was introduced to the Induction Ceremony crowd on Sunday at the Clark Sports Center.

Near skirmish

The radio row during the Induction Ceremony on Sunday nearly turned into Ali-Frazier IV.

Early into the ceremony, two white announcers appeared to take exception to a pair of Latin announcers, who were quite loud. One of the white announcers went to Hall spokesman Craig Muder to complain. On the way back to his seat, the man said to the Latin pair that he tried to warn them as Muder approached.

Angry words ensued and one of the Latin announcers walked over to a seated white announcer and, for a brief moment, appeared ready to throw a punch.

Calmer heads prevailed and the Latin men were moved to another location.

Staff Writer Rob Centorani and Contributing Writer Courtney A. Erickson contributed to this report.