Dan's Dugout: Vlad Leads Large Latino Wave to Hall • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Vlad Leads Large Latino Wave to Hall


COOPERSTOWN, NY – When Vladimir Guerrero mounts the podium at the Baseball Hall of Fame inductions Sunday, he’ll become the first Dominican position player to gain entrance.

New Hall of Famer Vlad Guerrero started his career with the Montreal Expos

He’ll also be in the vanguard of a large Latin wave expected to bring record crowds to this tiny Central New York hamlet.

Long-time Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, a native of Panama, is virtually certain to head the Class of ‘19 while former Red Sox slugger David (Big Papi) Ortiz, a Dominican, will follow three years later. Carlos Beltran, a switch-hitting outfielder from Puerto Rico, will also get substantial support when he becomes eligible in 2023.

Among active players whose careers are winding down, there’s little doubt that Dominican infielders Albert Pujols (Angels) and Adrian Beltre (Rangers) will reach the hallowed Hall five years after they retire.

Juan Marichal was the first Dominican player enshrined, followed by Pedro Martinez, godfather of Guerrero’s son. Both righthanded pitchers are part of a Cooperstown Latin Quarter that also includes Roberto Clemente, the first Latino to be elected and fellow Puerto Rican Roberto Alomar, plus slick-fielding Venezuelan shortstop Luis Aparicio.

The late Roberto Clemente was the first Latino to reach Cooperstown

Guerrero’s welcome, like those of the previous Latinos, should be boisterous, turning the open field outside the Clark Sports Center into a bazaar of bell-ringing, flag-waving, chanting admirers. If Stephen Spielberg were filming it, the movie would be part Woodstock and part World Baseball Classic.

For Latino superstars, just reaching the Hall of Fame is tough enough.

Excluded from the major leagues before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, they not only had to crack a 25-man roster but play better than virtually all of their contemporaries.

Only 1 per cent of major-leaguers ever reach the Hall of Fame, which will have 323 members after the pending inductions of Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, and Guerrero.

Getting into the Hall is hard, with 75 per cent of the vote required in both the vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America and the 16-member Veterans Committee.

Such luminaries as Grover Cleveland Alexander, Lefty Grove, and Carl Hubbell struck out in their first two years on the ballot. Joe DiMaggio needed four tries, Rogers Hornsby five, and Hank Greenberg nine. Duke Snider missed election for 10 years before he finally got enough votes.

Hank Greenberg missed Hall of Fame enshrinement eight times

Guerrero got in on his second try but should have been a no-brainer the first time around. He hit .318 with 449 home runs, won an MVP award, and played in the World Series. He scored at least 100 runs in 10 of his 16 seasons, hit .300 13 times, and had 30 homers eight times. He also had a pair of 30/30 seasons, making him the fourth Hall of Famer (after Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Barry Larkin) to turn that elusive trick.

A notorious bad-ball hitter, Guerrero still managed to put his bat on the ball; he never struck out more than 95 times in a season. He’s one of five players, along with Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Mel Ott, with 400 home runs and less than 1,000 strikeouts.

Guerrero’s plaque will feature the hat of the Los Angeles Angels, who signed him as a free agent and allowed him to showcase his talents after years of obscurity with the attendance-poor Montreal Expos. He was American League MVP in 1994, his first year in California, but could have won the honor earlier.

Guerrero reached the World Series with the Texas Rangers before concluding his career with the Baltimore Orioles.

He received 92.9 per cent of the vote, second only to the 97.2 per cent that went to Chipper Jones in the Class of 2018 balloting. Edgar Martinez, a popular Puerto Rican who got 70.4 per cent, is considered likely to join Rivera when the next class is announced in January.

This is the first year since 1971 that at least six former players have been elected.

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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