New Hall of Famers Alomar, Gillick recall Orioles' brighter days
By By Chris Branch and The Baltimore Sun
Jul 23, 2011 | 10:22 PM
The names Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick conjure memories of the last good days the Orioles have had, days when the playoffs were not foreign, mysterious territory.
As the former Orioles second baseman and the club's ex-general manager prepare to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Sunday, they looked back fondly on their days in Baltimore and offered perspective on the state of the franchise.
Alomar, an Oriole from 1996 to 1998, was an All-Star in all three seasons. He helped lead the team to the playoffs in 1996 and 1997, the Orioles losing in the American League Championship Series both years.
"I have great, great memories with the Baltimore Orioles," Alomar said this month in a conference call. "I had a lot of fun there. … Baltimore, the organization and the fans, they were good to me, and I appreciate every moment of it."
Alomar's best season in Baltimore was his first, when he hit .328 with 22 home runs and 94 RBIs. He won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards as the Orioles went 88-74 in the regular season and defeated the Indians in the AL Division series before falling to the Yankees, 4-1.
Alomar, who also played for the Padres, Blue Jays, Indians, Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks, said one of the biggest highlights of his time as an Oriole was playing next to Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.
"I played with great ballplayers and had the experience to play with one of the best shortstops that is in the big leagues at the time when I was playing the game," Alomar said.
Gillick, who brought Alomar to Baltimore as a free agent, has spent nearly 50 years in baseball front offices, serving as a general manager for four teams over 27 years.
Like Alomar, Gillick was with the Orioles from 1996 to 1998. In addition to the playoff trips in 1996 and 1997 and his signing Alomar, notable events during Gillick's Orioles tenure include his bringing Eddie Murray back to Baltimore in 1996 via trade and selecting Jayson Werth, now with the Nationals, in the first round of the 1997 amateur draft.
Gillick said it has been tough watching the Orioles, who haven't made the postseason since his departure, lose year after year.
"It's painful," Gillick said on a conference call this month. "It's very painful."
Gillick, now a senior adviser in the Phillies' front office, sympathizes with Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail's struggles in Baltimore.
"I really admire him for the way he's gone about it," said Gillick, who singled out right fielder Nick Markakis and second baseman Brian Roberts as key components of the Orioles' roster. "I think he's headed in the right direction, but again, [rebuilding] can be painful and it can be a long, drawn-out process."
Despite a .300 career batting average, 2,724 hits, 474 stolen bases, 10 Gold Gloves and 12 selections to the All-Star Game, Alomar narrowly missed being elected to the Hall of Fame last year, the first time he was eligible.
Some have speculated that — in addition to allegations from several women that Alomar had unprotected sex with them while being HIV positive, which he has denied — an on-field incident during the second baseman's first year with the Orioles contributed to his being passed over for the Hall.
On Sept. 27, 1996, Alomar, while arguing a called third strike, spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck. He said Hirschbeck had used a profane insult toward him.
Asked about the incident, Alomar said the two have put it in the past and Hirschbeck called him last year and expressed hope that it wasn't the reason for Alomar's exclusion.
"Me and John, we have a great relationship," Alomar said. "And when I got in this year, he was one of the happiest [people] alive. He left me a message on my phone. I still have the message. And it was a great message, and he said we both move on and hopefully people can move on and let this episode go."
Gillick and Alomar share a long history. After Alomar spent his first three seasons in San Diego, Gillick, then-Blue Jays general manager, traded for him. When Gillick left Toronto for Baltimore, Alomar wasn't far behind.
"He was a big influence on my career and personwise," Alomar said. "He was not only a good general manager, but he is also a great person. It was an honor [to be on the same team] with him."