At 3:46 yesterday afternoon, sitting in a conference room inside the Blue Jays' clubhouse at Rogers Centre, Roberto Alomar wagged his tongue, a look of exhaustion. He had just finished a media conference call, and he had many more interviews to go before he could rest.
"I've got a headache, man," he said.
It was, undoubtedly, the best headache of his life.
A year later than he - and most everyone else - anticipated, Alomar gained induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, with an authoritative 90 percent of the vote. He'll join former pitcher Bert Blyleven as the Baseball Writers Association of America's two selections for the Class of 2011.
A year ago, I sat in Alomar's home, then in Queens, as he waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . for a congratulatory telephone call that never came. He fell eight votes short of the necessary 75 percent for induction, drawing 73.7 percent.
The former second baseman dismissed a potential Newsday jinx and invited me to join him once more, this time with the team he helped win the 1992 and 1993 World Series.
Here's an inside look at Alomar's final moments as a non-Hall of Famer, and his first as a member of the exclusive club:
A jaw-dropping, metallic blue 2006 Rolls Royce pulls out of the garage of the Soho Metropolitan Hotel, located just a few blocks from Rogers Centre. Mead Chasky, Alomar's memorabilia representative, and I hop in. Alomar will be piloting his own coronation.
"I feel good," he says. He looks calm. Pretty much how he looked precisely a year ago.
He pulls into the stadium's executive parking lot, and the attendant appears to be daydreaming. Only after Alomar, holding his Blue Jays ID in his left hand, shouts, "Excuse me!" does the attendant come to, read the ID and then - in a fun moment of waiting for someone else to realize exactly what's going on - jolt back into full consciousness as he grasps who this is and why he's here. The attendant offers a smile and a peace sign.
You can see Alomar's comfort level here, even though he last played for the Blue Jays in 1995. The five years he spent in Toronto ranked as his longest stint in his seven-team career. He knows exactly where to park and how to get from the garage to the home clubhouse.
"Maybe this is just the way it's supposed to be," he says, smiling. "Maybe last year wasn't the right time."
Last year, Alomar waited with his then-wife, Maria Del Pilar Alomar, and his son, Roberto Jr. This time, divorced, he's with his professional family.
In the Blue Jays' clubhouse, a longtime attendant hugs Alomar and shows his arm, shaking slightly with anxiety. "It's like hitting in front of 50,000 people," a smiling Alomar says.
Last year, Alomar didn't know his fate for certain until he saw it on the 2 p.m. MLB Network broadcast. That won't be a problem this time. In a joint phone call from BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O'Connell and Hall of Fame chairperson Jane Forbes Clark, Alomar officially receives the good news.
He's in a small room with an exclusive group, including Blue Jays senior vice president Paul Beeston; maybe they do believe in the Newsday jinx, after all. Just down the hall, though, we can hear the cheering.
He has to keep it pretty quiet until the 2 o'clock announcement; the Hall doesn't want leaks. But Alomar easily fills the time with phone calls. To his mother; his father, Sandy Alomar Sr.; his sister; his longtime friend Ray Negron, the Yankees adviser, and his former Blue Jays manager, Cito Gaston. He also receives a call from commissioner Bud Selig, who offers his congratulations.
In the clubhouse, Alomar, Beeston, Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and many other team officials watch as Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson introduces the day's first electee. Alomar watches quietly with a satisfied expression as Idelson mentions Alomar's 474 stolen bases and postseason heroics.
When Idelson finally says the words "Roberto Alomar," the clubhouse erupts once more, and Champagne bottles are popped.
OK, now the victory lap: A remote interview with MLB Network, then with Rogers Sportsnet. Then a Skype conversation with people in his native Puerto Rico; Blue Jays vice president of communications Jay Stenhouse and an assistant hold up a Puerto Rican flag behind Alomar as he speaks.
After the BBWAA conference call, and before he entertains Puerto Rican reporters, Chasky puts out a few action shots for Alomar to autograph, saying how each photo should be personally addressed. "To Kevin," one reads, "All the best. Roberto Alomar. HOF 2011."
That last part looks smooth. It fits. And it more than justifies any headaches on this long, triumphant day, or even his one-year wait for baseball immortality.