American baseball player
Roberto Alomar, arguably the best second baseman in the major leagues, has rarely been given the same sort of recognition that other superstar players, like first baseman Mark McGwire or center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr. , have received. Alomar, one of only four players ever to have both ten career Golden Glove awards and a lifetime batting average of over%. 300, currently plays for the New York Mets.
Baseball in the Blood
The game of baseball runs in Alomar's family. Alomar's older brother, Sandy Jr., is currently a catcher for the Colorado Rockies, and their father, Sandy Sr., played in the major leagues for fifteen years. When the younger Alomars were first signed into the major leagues, they found themselves playing in Charleston, S.C., for a Class A team in the San Diego Padres organization that featured their father as a coach. Although Sandy Jr. was older, Alomar was the first of the two to break into the major leagues, becoming a regular figure in the Padres lineup in 1988. In 1989, the twenty-one-year-old Alomar became the youngest player to take the field for a National League team on opening day. That same year Sandy Jr. was traded
to the Cleveland Indians, where he would become the American League's Rookie of the Year in 1990.
Although Alomar had some freshman jitters in his first full year in the major leagues, committing eleven errors in the month of April, 1989, by the end of the season he had proved himself to be an excellent player. He finished that year with the sixth-highest batting average in the league and the third-highest number of hits, including the most sacrifice hits of any player. Alomar was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for the 1991 season, and it was there that, at the age of twenty-three, he first became a true star. He won his first Golden Glove award that year and placed sixth in the Most Valuable Player voting.
"For [Alomar] to have accomplished what he has at this age is really mind-boggling," Blue Jays' hitting coach Larry Hisle said to Bruce Newman of Sports Illustrated early in the 1992 season. "You have to remember that most players that age are just making it to the big leagues. Robbie has already been an All-Star twice." But the best was yet to come: Toronto won the World Series that year and again in 1993, and Alomar was named the Most Valuable Player of their 1992 American League Championship Series win over the Oakland Athletics.
An Unfortunate Incident
Alomar was traded to the Baltimore Orioles after the 1995 season. He remained an excellent player and continued to rack up Golden Glove awards and annual All-Star designations, but his career was marred by an unfortunate incident late in 1996. In one of the final games of the regular season, umpire John Hirschbeck mistakenly called a far outside pitch that should have been a ball a third strike. Alomar and Hirschbeck exchanged words at the plate. Alomar returned to the dugout peaceably, but once there he continued to complain about the unfairness of the call. Hirschbeck then threw Alomar out of the game, at which point Alomar and Orioles' manager Davey Johnson ran out onto the field to contest the call. The exchange that followed was very heated. Hirschbeck allegedly insulted Alomar in profane terms, but the cameras that were filming the game could not capture those words. What the cameras did capture, the image that was broadcast across the country in the days that followed, was Alomar spitting at Hirshbeck.
|1968||Born February 5 in Ponce, Puerto Rico|
|1988||Begins playing for the San Diego Padres|
|1989||Is the youngest player in the National League on opening day|
|1991||Begins playing for the Toronto Blue Jays|
|1996||Spits in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck during a game|
|1999||Begins playing for the Cleveland Indians|
|2002||Begins playing for the New York Mets|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1990-2002||Named an All-Star|
|1991||Wins Golden Glove award|
|1992||Wins Golden Glove award|
|1992||Named Most Valuable Player of American League Championship Series|
|1993||Wins Golden Glove award|
|1994||Wins Golden Glove award|
|1995||Wins Golden Glove award|
|1996||Wins Golden Glove award|
|1998||Named Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game|
|1998||Wins Golden Glove award|
|1999||Wins Golden Glove award|
|2000||Wins Golden Glove award|
|2001||Wins Golden Glove award|
Alomar immediately regretted his behavior, but it was too late. The incident, and the league's handling of it, provoked a storm of controversy. Many people, including the umpires' union, said that Alomar's fivegame suspension, which he would not have to serve until the beginning of the next season, was too light. The umpires threatened to go to strike over their perception that the league was not taking an assault on one of their own seriously, and it took a court order to get them to keep officiating. In the meantime, the day after Alomar spat at Hirschbeck he hit a home run in the tenth inning to win a spot in the playoffs for Baltimore.
A New Team
Alomar played in Baltimore for two more seasons before being traded to the Cleveland Indians, where his brother Sandy was still playing. The Indians were glad to have him: they had not had a solid second baseman since trading Carlos Baerga away in 1996, and they needed a good player to complement their star shortstop Omar Vizquel. The Alomar-Vizquel combination succeeded better than anyone could have hoped, and the two were widely considered to be the best second base-shortstop duo in the major leagues in the late 1990s. "I can't be with anyone better than [Alomar] at second base," Vizquel told John Kuenster of Baseball Digest in 2000. "We are like family."
|BAL: Baltimore Orioles; CLE: Cleveland Indians; NYM: New York Mets; SD: San Diego Padres; TOR: Toronto Blue Jays.|
"Married to Baseball"
Many of Alomar's teammates over the years, from the Padres to his current team, the New York Mets, have commented about how dedicated he is to the game. "He said he is married to baseball and I didn't understand what that meant until I played with the guy," Vizquel once commented to Baseball Digest reporter T. J. Quinn. "Every day he pointed out to me something I didn't know or something I didn't see." As Alomar explains it, he brings the same attitude to baseball that he did to his Catholic school in Puerto Rico as a child. "It's like how you go to school and you study and get good grades," he told Quinn. "That's how I study baseball."
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Deacon, James. "Dropping the Ball: Baseball's Playoffs Are All Spit and No Shine." Maclean's (October 14, 1999): 74.
"Hot Pursuit." The Sporting News (June 10, 1996): 9-10.
Kaplan, David A. "When the Spit Hits the Fan: Crying 'Remember the Alomar!' Umpires Try to Walk." Newsweek (October 14, 1996): 96.
Kuenster, John. "Vizquel and Alomar Rated as Best Middle Infield Duo in Majors." Baseball Digest (November, 2000): 19.
Kurkjian, Tim. "Do Not Disturb." Sports Illustrated (January 29, 1996): 142-145.
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Suttell, Scott. "All Eyes on Alomar." Crain's Cleveland Business (March 29, 1999): T14.
Verducci, Tom. "Scoring Machine." Sports Illustrated (May 24, 1999): 48.
Verducci, Tom. "Tribal Warfare." Sports Illustrated (October 20, 1997): 46-51.
Wulf, Steve. "The Spit Hit the Fan." Time (October 14, 1996): 82.
"Roberto Alomar." Baseball-Reference.com. http://www.baseball-reference.com/a/alomaro01.shtml (November 25, 2002).
"Roberto Alomar." CNN/Sports Illustrated. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/players/2035/ (November 15, 2002).
"Roberto Alomar." ESPN.com. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/players/stats?statsId=4189 (November 15, 2002).
Sketch by Julia Bauder