"I guess I have to ask the first thing over here to the cameras," Blyleven quipped as he opened his speech. "Are we live?"
Forty-seven Hall of Famers attended and an estimated 17,500 fans lined the rolling fields waving Canadian and Puerto Rican flags in honor of Alomar. Gillick and the 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman teamed together on the Blue Jays to produce their only World Series champions, in 1992 and '93. Thousands of Minnesota fans were decked in Twins jerseys to honor Blyleven, who played there from 1970-76 and 1985-88, winning the 1987 World Series, and has been a long-time broadcaster.
Alomar is the first inductee to enter the Hall representing the Blue Jays. Gillick, the club's first general manager, also said he'd go in wearing a Blue Jays cap if that were the style for executives, which it isn't. Gillick worked for the Jays, Orioles, Mariners and now the Phillies. In Philadelphia, he put together the 2008 World Series winners and is still an active consultant in baseball operations.
"I may not be the most deserving," said Gillick, echoing the sentiments of Niehaus when he was presented with the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting in 2008, "but I'm certainly the most appreciative." Niehaus passed away in November 2010.
Alomar played for seven teams, including the White Sox twice. Aside from being the first Toronto player in the Hall, he's also the first whose career took him through Phoenix, where he played briefly for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004. Alomar added an eighth team in his speech. He included the Tampa Bay Rays, for whom he attempted to make the club during Spring Training 2005, but retired instead when he realized he could no longer play at his accustomed level.
Clearly, though, he played to the huge Blue Jays fan contingent by saying that Toronto is really where his heart is. He just rejoined the club as an advisor and will have his famous No. 12 retired this coming Sunday at Rogers Centre.
"My time in Toronto was the best of my career. ... You embraced me from day one, you worked with me throughout my ups and downs, and I am so proud to represent you as the first Toronto Blue Jay inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame," Alomar said before being interrupted by chants of "Rob-bie! Rob-bie!" "I consider the Toronto Blue Jays organization an extension of my own family."
The Alomar family was there in all its splendor. His brother, Sandy Alomar Jr., a former All-Star catcher and current Indians coach, drove eight hours to Cooperstown after the game in Cleveland on Friday night to make the festivities. His father, former Major League second baseman Sandy Alomar Sr.; his mother, Maria; and sister, Sandia, were also all in attendance.
Likewise, Blyleven was regaled with a massive family presence that included his brothers, sisters, wife, children and grandchildren, plus his 85-year-old mother, Jenny, who ventured from Southern California. Missing was his father, Joe, whom Blyleven said taught him about the delights of baseball. Joe died from Parkinson's disease in 2004.
"I wish he was here," Blyleven said during his speech. "But Mom, I know he's looking down on us right now. Mommy, I love you."
This past January, Alomar was named on 90 percent of the ballots filed by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, or 523 of the record 581 cast. That was good for the third-highest vote total in history. It was his second time on the ballot.
Alomar, one of the greatest defensive second basemen in history and a fabulous switch-hitter, had 2,724 hits, 210 homers, 1,134 RBIs, 474 stolen bases and a .300 average in 2,379 games. He's the first second baseman to be elected since Ryne Sandberg in 2005 and the third native of Puerto Rico to be inducted into the Hall following Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda.
Alomar opened his speech thanking those great players in Spanish, his first language.
"Like I always say, my heart is half Puerto Rican and half Canadian," he said at a media conference afterwards. "The Canadian people have been so good to me the same way as the Puerto Ricans. It was a great day."
Blyleven, the first Dutch-born Hall inductee, was named on 79.7 percent of the ballots, receiving 463 votes. It was his 14th and next-to-last year on the writers' ballot. A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote to gain election. The threshold for election this year was 436 votes.
Blyleven finished with 287 wins, 13 short of what is the magical line for first-ballot election. Perhaps that alone delayed his election for more than a decade. He also had 3,701 strikeouts, which is good for fifth on the all-time list, and 60 shutouts, good for ninth.
He played for five teams. His No. 28 was retired by the Twins at Target Field a little more than a week ago. He was the first starting pitcher to go into the Hall since Nolan Ryan in 1999. Blyleven is portrayed wearing a Twins cap on his plaque.
During his speech, he said he was particularly influenced as a kid by Sandy Koufax, the great Dodgers left-hander seated on the stage in the group behind him. Blyleven said his dad had heard an interview on the radio conducted by Vin Scully, during which Koufax said no kid should throw a curveball until he was 13 or 14 years old. That was the gospel according to Koufax, Blyleven said.
"Sandy? I don't know if you remember that interview, but my dad did," Blyleven told the crowd. "My dad straightened bumpers for a living and sometimes my head. So I listened."
Later, when he was allowed to throw the curve, he watched Koufax closely as he learned what would turn out to be his trademark pitch.
Gillick, the sole candidate elected late last year by a 16-member post-expansion Veterans Committee, was the 32nd executive to go into the Hall and the first GM since George Weiss in 1971. Weiss was the architect of the Yankees teams that won 10 American League pennants and seven World Series from 1949-60.
The trio is now among a group of 295 players, umpires, managers and executives in the Hall of Fame, 111 of them players elected by the BBWAA.
Gillick said that after the months of buildup and anticipation, the event lived up to all his expectations.
"The reaction of the Latin American people here today was just tremendous," he said afterward at the presser. "It was a very lively crowd. It seemed right to me. I was comfortable with it today. I felt comfortable among all the people and I think the people felt comfortable with the three of us."