Displaying exceeding physical grace, Roberto Alomar was as much an artist as he was a ballplayer. He commanded attention with broad brushstrokes, such as a key hit. He added excellence in small dabs, laying down deft bunts or maintaining delicate footwork around second base, the position he exalted for 17 Major League seasons.
Much of Alomar’s big league education came from his father, Sandy, a former infielder and longtime coach, and his brother, Sandy Jr., a six-time All-Star catcher. Ultimately, though, Roberto’s skill was entirely his own.
Here’s a summary of 10 highlights from Alomar’s Hall of Fame career:
1. A (Fall) Classic Man
Oct. 16-23, 1993
People within the game knew of Alomar’s impending greatness long before he made his Major League debut with the Padres at age 20. But he unveiled his talents to those outside it during the 1993 World Series. Alomar batted .480 (12-for-25) in Toronto’s six-game triumph over Philadelphia, driving in six runs and scoring five. His OPS was a scalding 1.159.
2. What a trade!
Dec. 5, 1990
Alomar was included in the four-player blockbuster deal the Padres and Blue Jays engineered at the 1990 Winter Meetings. San Diego sent him and outfielder Joe Carter to Toronto for infielder Tony Fernandez and first baseman Fred McGriff. The trade benefited everyone: Alomar had five consecutive All-Star seasons with Toronto; Carter belted a historic World Series-winning homer in ’93; Toronto reacquired Fernandez in time for him to contribute to that title; and McGriff hit 30-plus homers in each of his two full campaigns with San Diego.
3. Bird of a feather
AIomar’s career spiked following the aforementioned deal. He and Carter won World Series rings in back-to-back years (1992-93). Having achieved All-Star status for the first time in ‘90, Alomar was named to the next 11 Midsummer Classics. Though he proceeded to play for the Indians, Orioles, White Sox, Mets and Diamondbacks, he remained at heart a member of the Blue Jays, who retired his jersey number 12 after his 2011 Hall of Fame induction.
4. Grasp on gold
Alomar earned 10 Gold Glove Awards for defensive excellence. He played 104 consecutive errorless games at second base in 1995 to establish an American League record.
5. Sudden slugger
Oct. 11, 1992
Alomar possessed adequate power, finishing his career with 210 regular-season home runs. But one round-tripper, in particular, proved to be one of his most memorable deeds with Toronto. His two-run, ninth-inning homer off the usually indomitable Dennis Eckersley of the A’s forged a 6-6 tie in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series. Toronto proceeded to win in 11 innings to take a 3-1 series lead en route to the AL pennant, which helped him earn ALCS Most Valuable Player honors.
6. Count on him
1991-93, ’96-97, ’99, 2001
Alomar could also thrive in critical situations. He batted .313 with 33 RBIs in 58 career postseason games.
7. What a combo (twice)
Alomar’s migration in free agency led to three-year stints with Baltimore and Cleveland, which paired him with two of the greatest shortstops in baseball history: Cal Ripken Jr. and Omar Vizquel, respectively. Alongside each performer, Alomar twice ranked among MLB's top five in double plays turned by a second baseman.
8. Midsummer master
July 7, 1998
Alomar was superb in the AL’s 13-8 All-Star Game triumph over the NL at Denver’s Coors Field, where he won MVP honors. He went 3-for-4 with a seventh-inning homer off San Diego’s Trevor Hoffman and stole a base, one of the AL’s record five thefts.
9. First-rate at second
Alomar is entrenched among the all-time leading second basemen in multiple categories, including games (2,322), doubles (497), hits (2,687), runs (1,486), assists (6,524) and double plays turned (1,407). A switch-hitter, he batted an even .300 for his career.
10. No denying him
Alomar missed first-ballot induction into the Hall of Fame by eight votes. The percentage of votes he received (73.7) was the highest for a candidate who did not reach the 75 percent minimum. It was theorized that Alomar was being punished for his involvement in a 1996 spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck. Alomar cruised into Cooperstown the following year, receiving 90 percent of the vote.