Kaat a stubborn Dutchman, too

July 24, 2011

The paths of Bert Blyleven and left-hander Jim Kaat crossed briefly in the early 1970s, and their records are nearly identical.

Blyleven, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, was 287-250 in a 22-year major league career, while Kaat was 283-237 in 25 seasons. Blyleven is the first Dutch-born player elected and a big supporter of Kaat, whose grandparents were born in the Netherlands.

Blyleven credits his heritage with giving him the stubbornness that led to his longevity in the big leagues and eventual selection on his 14th try.

''You ain't much if you ain't Dutch,'' the 72-year-old Kaat, a native of Zeeland, Mich., joked before Sunday's ceremony. ''I never thought about that. I was just blessed with a good arm and had good work ethics when I was a kid.''

Blyleven has mentioned Kaat as a mentor, but Kaat said he didn't remember giving much advice.

''I think the only thing I can even remember helping him with was every time he started a game he'd get ready so fast - it seemed like in 8-10 minutes he'd be ready to go,'' Kaat recalled. ''So I'd say, `Whoa! Take a little more time between pitches, particularly on a hot day.' I figure if you have a long first inning, boy that could wear you down. But he didn't need a lot of help. You just needed to stay out of his way.''


ALOMAR'S STRUGGLE: That Roberto Alomar was nearly rendered speechless at his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum probably was no surprise. He had to stare at all those Puerto Rican flags waving in the breeze and several members of his family, including his teary mom, his proud father, and brother Sandy Jr.

''It was real emotional, just to see my family sharing this moment with me,'' said Alomar, who joined Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda as the only Puerto Ricans in the Hall of Fame. ''When you have a time like this and share it with your family, it's something we will remember for life.''

''We've been blessed,'' Sandy Alomar Sr. said. ''It's our turn. (Puerto Rico) is so small and having three guys out of 295 (Hall of Famers) is something great.''

Alomar, who signed with the San Diego Padres in 1985 as a 17-year-old, was traded in 1990 to the Toronto Blue Jays and helped lead them to consecutive World Series titles in 1992-93.

''Like I always say in my heart, I'm half Puerto Rican and half Canadian,'' Alomar said. ''The Canadian people have been so good to me. It's a great day.''


NO. 1 OLD-TIMER: The first Hall of Fame class was inducted in 1936, and not many are still around to reminisce - except 93-year-old Homer Osterhoudt. He's been to just about every induction ceremony.

''It just happened,'' Osterhoudt said of his remarkable record, fashioned after his dad bought a farm just outside Cooperstown. ''I remember Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Cy Young, Connie Mack, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, all those. It was down right in front (of the Hall of Fame). They had a platform.

''I don't remember what Babe said. They all made speeches, `Glad to be here,' and all that.''

According to his math, he's attended all but two or three inductions.


Notes: 47 of the 65 living Hall of Famers were on stage to welcome the new honorees. ... An estimated average of 15,000 fans annually attend Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, but four years ago a record throng of about 75,000 packed Cooperstown to honor Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn. The four other most-attended ceremonies were: 50,000 (1999); 40,000 (1995); 27,000 (2001 and 2005); and 25,000 (2000). ... The Blue Jays will retire Alomar's No. 12 jersey in a July 31 ceremony. Alomar is the first Toronto player to have his jersey retired. Blyleven had his No. 28 retired last week by the Twins. ... Anthony Gargiula, a 12-year-old from Glenmont, N.Y., sang the national anthem for the second straight year. ... With Alomar's election, six double-play combinations are now enshrined: Alomar and Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles, Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Joe Cronin and Bobby Doerr of the Red Sox, Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers of the Cubs, Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio of the White Sox, and Monte Irvin and Larry Doby of the Newark Eagles. ... Each of Pat Gillick's four franchises (Blue Jays 1978-94; Orioles 1996-98, Mariners 2000-03, Phillies 2006-08) advanced to the postseason while he was GM. Gillick is the 32nd executive to be elected to the Hall of Fame, but just the fourth who spent his time primarily as a general manager, joining Ed Barrow, Branch Rickey and George Weiss ... Philadelphia sports writer Bill Conlin, who was honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, made a plea for Pete Rose, the game's all-time hits king, to be reinstated and made eligible for the Hall of Fame. Rose, banned for life from baseball for betting on games, was in town for the weekend signing autographs downtown.