Roberto Alomar’s penance turned out to be merely a one-year delay for entry into the Hall of Fame. The electorate lifted the penalty, of sorts, on Alomar for his infamous incident with umpire John Hirschbeck on Sept. 27, 1996.
Alomar was officially announced today, along with ultra non-controversial pitcher Bert Blyleven.
Alomar’s career took a dark turn that day in 1996 when he spit in the face of Hirschbeck after being called out on strikes. Alomar said the umpire uttered a remark to him that prompted the way over the top reaction. But no one bought it.
Alomar's statistics clearly suggested admission in his first year of eligibility, Alomar fell eight votes shy. The delay seemed appropriate. No matter their tempers and frailties, umpires are an essential part of the game. It does not exist without them. That some voters took that into account means more power to them for respecting that element of the sport.
By all accounts, Hirschbeck long ago made peace with Alomar. The two seem to be friends, with phone calls to each other over the years. Alomar has contributed to fund raising for a disease that claimed the life of Hirschbeck’s eight-year old son.
Earlier this week, Hirschbeck was quoted as saying ``I was hoping for him last year…He definitely deserves it. Maybe people know more about the game than me, but he’s the best second baseman I’ve seen in all my years. I don’t see a way he shouldn’t be in.’’
Alomar has other issues on his ledger of a more personal nature but none of what has surfaced to date would have prevented his election.
The Hall of Fame is largely a statistical palace. Judgement generally has not been placed on those who were of questionable moral fiber or on bad terms with the baseball writers, who are the first line of voters.
The voters do look harshly on those accused of staining the game. Pete Rose has never qualified for a vote, but his late admission that he bet on baseball apparently has done little to gain any significant support in the community of voters.
Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro have not passed muster as two main candidates from the Steroid Era. Judgement also awaits Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens Barry Bonds and, many years from now, Alex Rodriguez.