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Alomar inducted into Tribe Hall of Fame

Alomar inducted into Tribe HOF

CLEVELAND -- Sandy Alomar Jr. admits that if it were just up to his statistics, he would not have been inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame. But it's just that which makes him proud to be an Indians alum.

Constant knee troubles and other injuries limited his performance during 11 seasons with the Indians. And while his numbers may not stack up with some of the great Indians of the past, it was his drive to succeed that is the biggest reason why he was inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame on Saturday at Progressive Field.

"I'm not here because of stats," Alomar said. "I'm here because I love to win. If you go by stats, there are many guys that should be here [ahead of me]. But I'm happy, and I feel honored that they reward players that come to play and to win ballgames."

Alomar was inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame alongside right-handed pitcher Wes Ferrell, who was with the Indians from 1927-33. Ferrell won 21 or more games from 1929-32. His best year for the Indians was 1930, when he went 25-13 with a 3.31 ERA and 143 strikeouts.

Former owners Bill Veeck and Richard Jacobs will be inducted into the new Distinguished Indians Hall of Fame.

Veeck owned the Indians from 1946-49 and was responsible, among other things, for signing Larry Doby, the first African-American player in the American League in 1947.

Jacobs, who owned the Indians from 1986-2001, died earlier this year and helped keep the Indians in Cleveland and make a run at a World Series title in 1995 and 1997.

Alomar was a key part of both teams. And while he wasn't the headliner on those teams, he was of this class.

He played for the Indians from 1990 to 2000 and helped resurrect a woeful franchise. In 1991, the Tribe was 57-105. Just four years later, the team was 100-44 and contended for a World Series championship. It would be the first of five straight American League Central Division titles.

In his career with the Indians, Alomar played in 985 games, batting .277 with 92 homers, 453 RBIs and 416 runs. But, as he said, it wasn't those numbers that made him a fan favorite; it was his gritty leadership and gutsy performance.

The Indians acquired Alomar in the winter of 1989, when they sent Joe Carter to the Padres for Alomar, Carlos Baerga and Chris James. Alomar was considered a big-time prospect but was unable to get out of the shadow of Benito Santiago.

"I was playing in winter ball when the Indians scouts saw me play, and I just happened to have a great game. They cut a deal within a week." Alomar said. "I was very happy to have an opportunity to play in the big leagues. The fans received me with open arms, and it was great. I had a good time here."

The Indians weren't much in Alomar's first few years with the club, but he said he began to see the beginning of a change when guys like Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez worked their way to the Majors in the early '90s.

Alomar said the key to the team's success in the mid-90s was the willingness of guys like Thome and Ramirez to adapt and change to whatever the team needed them to do.

"They didn't mind change," Alomar said.

Alomar was limited to just 66 games in the Tribe's first run at a title in 1995. But his injuries largely subsided from 1996-98. During that stretch, he never played in fewer than 117 games.

His best year was 1997, when he had career highs in batting average (.324), hits (146) home runs (21) and RBIs (83). He was the guy the Indians wanted up in clutch situations. He seemed to always come through when the team needed him most. He put together a 30-game hit streak and was even named All-Star Game MVP when he homered late in the American League's win over the National League at Jacobs Field.

That year, the Indians were one inning away from beating the Florida Marlins in the World Series and grabbing their first championship since 1948. But closer Jose Mesa couldn't protect a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 and went on to lose the game, 3-2, in 11 innings.

Alomar said that, even today, he is still disappointed that he was unable to bring a championship to Cleveland. But that didn't diminish the team's impressive run.

"My focus was on the postseason," Alomar said. "I was born to win and all those wins and all those postseason games, it was very gratifying to play in two World Series."

The spotlight was never focused on Alomar for long, and that's the way he liked it. Even during his press conference with the media on Friday, Alomar was more willing to talk about guys like Albert Belle and Thome than he was to speak of his own success.

That's what made Alomar, who is working with the New York Mets as a catching instructor, a leader then and that's what could lead to opportunities to be a leader in the future.

"I look forward to managing in the future," Alomar said. "But, right now, it's baby steps."

Matt O'Donnell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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