COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Pat Gillick spent his professional career evaluating baseball talent, and his skill at the job took him all the way to Cooperstown. So when Gillick toured the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday in preparation for his July 24 induction, his scouting instincts took over.
"There's a lot of guys here with high leg kicks," he said while looking at artifacts from Sandy Koufax and other Hall of Fame pitchers. "You just don't see that anymore."
Gillick represents a baseball rarity: a Hall of Fame general manager. The architect of two World Series champions in Toronto and another in Philadelphia, Gillick was elected to the Hall of Fame in December by the expansion era committee and will be enshrined in Cooperstown along with Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven.
Gillick is one of four men who served primarily as team builders — along with Ed Barrow, Branch Rickey and George Weiss — to be elected to the Hall and will be the 32nd executive enshrined.
"You never know when you're building a team," Gillick said as he examined an exhibit dedicated to the Blue Jays teams that won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. "You hope, but you never know."
Gillick always seemed to know. As general manager for 27 seasons with the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies, his teams finished .500 or better 20 times and advanced to the postseason 11 times. He remains with the Phillies as the team's senior advisor to the president and general manager after building the Philadelphia squad that won the 2008 World Series.
Starting his career as a pitcher, Gillick toiled in the minor leagues from 1959-63 before landing a job with the front office of the then-Houston Colt .45s. On Tuesday in the Hall of Fame's Giamatti Research Center, Gillick examined a scouting report on him that read: "Good curveball, lots of moxie."
But behind the scenes in the world of scouting, Gillick carved his Hall of Fame career. He was promoted to Astros' scouting director in 1974, then moved on to the Yankees in 1975-76 before landing with the Blue Jays in 1977. He was named the Jays' general manager in 1978, staying through 1994 before leading the Orioles (1996-98), Mariners (2000-03) and Phillies (2006-08).
"I think that was what brought back the most memories today, seeing the Colt .45s jersey. That brought me back to where I started," Gillick said. "That and the Blue Jays (exhibit), with Joe Carter's bat (that Carter used to hit his World Series-clinching home run in 1992). That was a pretty special moment."
Gillick spent most of his career guiding teams into the national spotlight. But on Tuesday he seemed most at ease when in the background — just like during his days as a general manager. He often stopped on the tour to ask questions or chat with those on the tour, never giving any indication to the Museum visitors that a Hall of Famer was in their midst.
"It's a very humbling experience to see all the great people in the Hall of Fame," Gillick said. "To be a part of it is very indescribable. I just feel like I'm one of the guys. I put my shoes and pants on like anyone else.
"This would have been impossible without the help of everyone along the way who supported me."