Second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, one year after each narrowly missed gaining enough votes for induction.
Alomar was named on 90 percent of the record 581 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, or 523 votes, while Blyleven got 79.7 percent (463 votes), the Hall of Fame said in a news release.
“There’s no other way I can describe this, it’s the happiest day of my life,” Alomar said in an interview on the MLB Network.
Rafael Palmeiro, who had 569 home runs and 3,020 hits during a career stained by a steroid suspension, got 11 percent (64 votes) in his first time on the ballot. Twelve-time All-Star Mark McGwire received 19.8 percent (115 votes) in the first balloting since he admitted using steroids as a player, a drop from a year ago.
A player must receive at least 75 percent of the votes cast by members of the writers’ association to gain induction into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Blyleven won 74.2 percent of the vote last year, five votes short of the mark. Alomar got 73.7 percent, eight votes short and the closest of any first-year candidate not elected.
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was third in this year’s voting with 62.1 percent and pitcher Jack Morris was the only other player to receive more than 50 percent, gaining 53.5 percent in his 12th year on the ballot. Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell, making his debut on the ballot, received 41.7 percent of the vote.
Andre Dawson was chosen for induction by the writers in 2010. This year Alomar and Blyleven will be inducted with baseball executive Pat Gillick, who in December was voted in by the Hall’s veterans committee after building three World Series-winning teams. Induction ceremonies are set for July 24.
Alomar, 42, had a 17-season Major League Baseball career that included 12 All-Star Game spots and 10 Gold Glove Awards for fielding, the most of any second baseman.
He played his first three seasons with the San Diego Padres before five years with the Toronto Blue Jays. That was followed by three years each with the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians, as well as stops with the New York Mets, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Alomar said after his election that he wanted to wear a Blue Jays cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, a decision that will be made by Hall officials.
‘Embraced by Fans’
“When I first got traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, I felt real embraced by the fans, by the organization,” Alomar said on the MLB Network. “What better gift can I give to the Toronto Blue Jays organization, who have been so great to me, to be using their hat in the Hall of Fame.”
Alomar, who batted .300 for his career, led the American League with 138 runs scored for the Indians in 1999 while batting .323. He also had career highs of 24 home runs and 120 runs batted in that season. He had 210 home runs and drove in 1,134 runs in his career.
Alomar also drew a five-game suspension for spitting in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck in September 1996 while arguing a called third strike. The two later reconciled, shaking hands at home plate in a 1997 game, and Hirschbeck has been a supporter of Alomar’s Hall of Fame candidacy.
“It’s something I regret doing, something that I have apologized many, many times for,” Alomar said. “Me and John are great friends, and as long as he forgives me for what I did, I feel good about it.”
Blyleven, a right-hander, retired in 1992 after a 22-year major league career, playing 11 seasons with the Minnesota Twins, five with the Indians, three each with the California Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates and two with the Texas Rangers.
The two-time All-Star, who was born in Zeist, Netherlands, went 287-250 with a 3.31 career earned run average. The win total ranks 27th in major-league history, while his 3,701 strikeouts are fifth and his 60 shutouts ninth.
This was 59-year-old Blyleven’s 14th year on the ballot. Players become eligible five years after retirement and can gain election for the next 15 years unless they receive less than 5 percent of the vote in a year.
On the ballot for the fifth time was McGwire, whose 583 homers rank 10th in major-league history. McGwire, who in January 2010 admitted using steroids, garnered 23.7 percent of the vote last year, prior to his steroid disclosure.
Palmeiro is one of four players with at least 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. The others were all first-ballot Hall of Fame choices -- Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Eddie Murray.
Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 for taking steroids, five months after he told a U.S. congressional committee that he never used the muscle-building drugs. He has repeatedly denied using drugs, including in an interview with SI.com last month.