Dan's Dugout: Vlad Glad He Got Hall's Call • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Vlad Glad He Got Hall’s Call

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COOPERSTOWN – There is no father/son combinaution in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
No Bobby and Barry Bonds, no Ken Griffeys, no Cal Ripkens.

But now, thanks to Vladimir Guerrero, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Vladimir Guerrero joined the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday.
Credit: George Napolitano

On the same day he was inducted into the hallowed Hall Sunday, Vladimir Guerrero’s teenaged son was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A – and the fast track to Toronto.

Although he plays third base instead of following in his dad’s footsteps as an outfielder, Vlad Jr. is the same type of hitter: a righthanded slugger with speed, power, and the ability to hit any ball anywhere in the vicinity of the batter’s box.

The elder Guerrero, who learned to hit by swinging broomsticks at rocks in the Dominican Republic, finished his 16-year career with a .318 batting average and 449 home runs. But he never struck out more than 95 times in a season.

Along the way, he won an MVP award, with the 2004 Los Angeles Angels, and played in a World Series, with the Texas Rangers. He also had a pair of 30/30 seasons, following Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Barry Larkin as the only Hall of Famers to do that.

He’s also the only Dominican position player in Cooperstown.

“I’m honored to be the first position player from the Dominican Republic,” he said Monday with the help of Spanish-language broadcaster Jose Mota, “and I’m honored to be here with Pedro Martinez.

“We lived together when I first came up to Montreal in 1997. We used to go to a Spanish restaurant but after I went into a little skid, maybe 0-for-7, Pedro said we’re not going there anymore. We had to find a new place.”

Although Vlad idolized Pedro Guerrero (not related) in his youth, he and Martinez formed such an unbreakable bond that he named the pitcher the godfather of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.

Both Junior and his mom, a former maid, have all the luxuries Senior lacked. He had to drop out of school at 13 to herd cows, sell vegetables, and catch fish to feed the family.

Vladimir Guerrero (left) with fellow Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, the godfather of his son Vladimir Jr. Credit: George Napolitano

“I’m glad my mom was here,” Senior said Monday at the informal Roundtable event that marked the end of Induction Weekend. “She did so many things for us over the years and now I’m so glad I can provide for her.”

Vladidmir’s brother Wilton, who also played in the major leagues, attended the inductions too, along with an estimated 52,000 fans, second only to the 82,000 who came in 2007 for Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr.
The crowd included Vlad’s ever-present interpreter Jose Mota, a fellow Dominican whose dad Manny is a former player and coach who now works for Spanish SportsNet LA.

At the time Manny Mota retired, he was the most prolific pinch-hitter in baseball history, though Mike Sweeney and Lenny Harris later passed him. Mota hit .304 overall and .297 as a pinch-hitter, with 150 pinch-hits. He later coached for the Dodgers, finally hanging up his jersey in 2013.

Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson presents Vladimir Guerrero with his plaque.
Credit: George Napolitano

Also at the Monday Roundtable were Lou Whitaker, long-time double-play partner of inductee Alan Trammell; former Braves slugger Ron Gant, covering Chipper Jones for an Atlanta TV station; and former pitcher Paul Byrd, who worked for the Braves, Royals, and other clubs.

In addition to Guerrero, Jones, and Trammell, the other newly-minted Hall of Famers are Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, and Jack Morris.

Jones mentioned Monday that the Class of 2018 represents a true American melting pot, with representatives from Latin America (Guerrero), the West Coast (Hoffman), the South (Jones), the Midwest (Morris and Trammell), and the Rust Belt (Thome).

Guerrero had the most boisterous cheering section at the induction ceremonies, with fans from Montreal, California, and the Dominican ringing bells, waving flags, and chanting “Vladi! Vladi!”

He said he was moved by their support – and especially acknowledged the contingent from Montreal, a city abandoned by Major League Baseball after the 2004 campaign. “I enjoyed playing there,” he said. “Montreal is a great city.”

The first Dominican position player to reach Cooperstown had his own cheering section.
Credit: George Napolitano

Weak attendance led to the transfer of the team and may have cost Guerrero several MVP awards. Writers usually award the trophy to players not only from winning teams but well-marketed ones.

Guerrero could have used a press agent himself. Undrafted by any big-league team, he finally signed with the Expos as a free agent. His signing bonus was a puny $2,500.

Now that he’s a Hall of Famer, Vladimir Guerrero will have many big paydays ahead.

Two more Latinos, Mariano Rivera and Edgar Martinez, head the list of 2019 Cooperstown candidates. Induction date is July 21.

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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  • CLAY MARSTON

    YET ANOTHER EXCELLENT AND VERY WELL DETAILED PIECE ON ONE OF THE TOP PLAYERS TO EVER APPEAR WITH THE MONTREAL EXPOS … THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME SHOULD REALLY HAVE INCLUDED THE EXPOS LOGO ON HIS PLAQUE IN COOPERSTOWN, BEING YET ANOTHER MAJOR MISTAKE TO GO WITH LOS ANGELES ANGELS LOGO AS THAT IS JUST A MARKETING PLOY, AS ARE SO MANY OTHER THINGS IN LIFE THESE DAYS.