COOPERSTOWN, New York (Reuters) - Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven provided an international touch to the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony Sunday as they were enshrined along with longtime executive Pat Gillick.
Alomar, who became the third Puerto Rican player to be inducted after Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Clemente, gave the first part of his speech in Spanish to honor his roots and then singled out his years in Toronto with the Blue Jays.
"My time in Toronto was the best of my career. We won two World Series together," said the 43-year-old former second baseman, who played five seasons with the Blue Jays from 1991-95.
"I am so proud to represent you as the first Toronto Blue Jay inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame," said Alomar, who became the first player whose Cooperstown plaque featured a Blue Jays cap.
"I consider the Toronto Blue Jays organization an extension of my own family."
That declaration brought cheers of "Rob-bie, Rob-bie" from Toronto fans decked out in Blue Jay tee-shirts in the crowd.
Alomar, a 12-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner and career .300 hitter, was acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres by Toronto general manager Pat Gillick, who was also enshrined Sunday as an all-time baseball executive.
The son of former major league second baseman Sandy Alomar and younger brother of big leaguer Sandy Alomar, Jr., he played for seven different organizations over his 17-season career.
Blyleven, named Rik Aalbert, spun a devastating curve ball as a pitcher for five different major league teams in his 22-year career and also voiced pride in his family background.
"I'm proud to be the first born Dutchman to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame," said 60-year-old Blyleven, who was born in Zeist before moving to Canada and then to California as a boy.
"I got my Dutch stubbornness and determination from my parents."
Blyleven, who won 287 games and struck out 3,701, fifth best all-time after starting with the Minnesota Twins, caught baseball fever from his father, who grew to love the game listening to broadcaster Vin Scully do Dodgers games on radio.
He said he owed a debt of gratitude to Scully and former Dodgers pitching great Sandy Koufax, who was among nearly 50 Hall of Famers sitting behind him on the outdoor stage.
"Once I started pitching, my dad said I could not start throwing a curve ball until I was 13, 14 years old. Why? Because he listened to an interview with Vin Scully and Sandy Koufax.
"Sandy told Vin that because of his elbow problems, if he ever had a son he wouldn't let him throw a curve ball until he was 13 or 14. Sandy, I don't know if you remember that interview, but my dad did.
"Sandy, I also learned the curve ball from you. Listening to Vin Scully describe your curve ball ... I always visualized the rotation of that baseball.
"So thank you, Sandy Koufax."
(Writing by Larry Fine; Editing by Justin Palmer)