Blyleven and Alomar's lives overlap again
Pitcher played with infielder's father in Texas
Thirty-four years ago, a pair of youngsters captured a glimpse of their future. Two brothers watched Bert Blyleven post a 14-12 record and 2.72 ERA while throwing 15 complete games in 30 starts in 1977.
That season, Blyleven suited up in the same Texas Rangers uniform as Sandy Alomar Sr., a scrawny middle infielder whom opposing teams found to be a pest on the basepaths throughout his 15-year Major League career.
Alomar's two sons, Sandy Jr., then 11, and Roberto, then 9, spent much of their time watching their father's team. In 1977, the penultimate season of Alomar's career, the brothers watched the Rangers starter baffle opposing hitters with his knee-buckling curveball.
Blyleven was nearing his prime; he recorded double-digit wins for the eighth consecutive season to start his career. He'd eventually reach double figures in the victory column 17 times before hanging up his cleats.
Alomar retired after one more season in Texas, but the family legacy lasted far beyond the pesky Puerto Rico native's career. More than three decades later, a pair of Alomars will once again watch Blyleven on baseball's main stage. This time, though, it'll be both Sandys watching Blyleven and Roberto earning their entry into the Hall of Fame.
"I'm very excited to see [Blyleven] there," Sandy Jr. said. "The funny thing is, we used to watch Bert Blyleven pitch and now my brother is going in with a guy he saw pitch when he was a little kid."
Sandy Jr. and Roberto came up together in the Padres organization. After playing together for two years in San Diego, they went their separate ways before being reunited in Cleveland during the 1999 and 2000 seasons after the Indians inked Roberto to a three-year contract.
"They were telling me they were trying to [sign him]," said Sandy Jr., who played catcher in Cleveland from 1990-2000. "That was their No. 1 priority, to get Robbie here."
In his three years beside Lake Erie, Roberto's typical campaign consisted of a .323 average with 21 homers, 103 RBIs, 121 runs scored and 35 stolen bases. The second baseman finished third in the American League MVP Award voting in 1999 and fourth in 2001. He won a Gold Glove Award in each of his three seasons in Cleveland. That span gave him a major push toward a Hall of Fame-worthy career.
"The three years he spent here, he probably had the best years of his career, numbers-wise," said Sandy Jr., now the Indians' first-base coach. "Unfortunately we couldn't make it to the World Series. But the years here helped him a lot."
Roberto rounded out his career with a .300 average and 2,724 hits in 17 seasons. Along the way, he played in 12 All-Star Games and took home 10 Gold Glove Awards. Yet, he wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame in the first year he appeared on the ballot.
"I thought [Roberto] was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer," Sandy Jr. said. "First ballot, second ballot, what's the difference? How many people are going to remember, unless you spend 10 years on the ballot?"
Many people recognize the perseverance Blyleven's name carried on the ballot, as the right-hander earned his induction last winter after 14 years of being passed over.
Now, more than three decades after their lives intertwined for one season, things have come full circle for Blyleven and the Alomars. Sandy Jr. couldn't think of any better way to put the crowning achievement on a family history littered with baseball success.
"We were very excited when he was elected in the winter," Sandy Jr. said. "But now that we're going to watch it happen, the entire island of Puerto Rico and our family are going to be overwhelmed."
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.