Results tagged ‘ Roberto Alomar ’

Puerto Rico memories

By Brad Horn

Adios Borinquen!

There’s a colloquialism here in Ponce that speaks to the bravado of this southern coast historic town in Puerto Rico…”Ponce es Ponce.”

Indeed on Monday night, “Ponce is Ponce” was on full display at a local gymnasium used mostly for volleyball, named for a great basketball player from Ponce, Juan “Pachin” Vicens.

The people of Ponce turned out in droves to see the Hall of Fame plaques and were entertained by a rousing program, featuring mayor Maria Melendez Altieri’s infectious enthusiasm in presenting proclamations to Vera Clemente, Tony Perez and Roberto Alomar. The mayor also expressed her deepest thanks to the Hall of Fame and presented us gifts to show her appreciation.

Born in Ponce and raised in nearby Salinas, Robbie was the star of the evening, returning to his birthplace in the year of his Hall of Fame induction to boisterous applause. Father Sandy Sr. was also in attendance, as was Luis Clemente, Pituka Perez (Tony’s wife) and Ponce native and former Yankees reliever Luis Arroyo, who, along with Vic Power, became the first Puerto Ricans selected for an All-Star Game in 1955.

Smiles were abundant, as both Robbie and Tony spoke passionately of their appreciation for the people of Ponce. Alomar spoke in praise of how much it means to be a native son of Ponce, while Perez talked of the memories he’s shared over the years in this community, including watching winter league games here, when his son Eduardo, managed the Ponce club.

One of the single best moments of the entire trip served as the final touch to the plaque tour. Erik Strohl, our senior director for exhibitions and collections, told Sandy Sr. that he should have the honor of placing his son’s plaque in its case for the long journey home. Known by his given name here on the island, Santos was aglow as he held Robbie’s plaque, beaming with joy only a father could understand. Kudos to Erik for providing Sandy a memory of a lifetime.

As the plaques were packed securely by Erik and Evan Chase, our security director, the expression on the faces of our hosts for the last four days was simply priceless. Proud, joyous, exuberant, thankful and honored were the words said, but not uttered, in the universal language of visual emotion. No words were needed to understand what this journey was all about.

Moments later, Jeff, Erik, Evan and I were on board our Department of Sports and Recreation van, bound for the 110-mile journey back to the north end of the island. A police escort the entire way from Ponce to San Juan spoke volumes about the importance of this outreach to the commonwealth.

There’s a shared emotion many of us have in Cooperstown on the Monday afternoon following induction weekend every year. We are always happy that we have reached the end, knowing that we have done our absolute best to deliver lifetime memories to so many people for celebration unlike any other in baseball. Yet, we have a sadness that the journey has ended far too soon.

As the sun rose this morning while we taxied on the runway at Luis Munoz Airport in San Juan bound for Charlotte and then Albany and Cooperstown, I looked out my window and was overcome with emotion. I was reminded of that post-Induction feeling we have at the end of July in Cooperstown. For the last four days on this island, we did what we as an organization does best – made the dreams of others come true. And for the first time ever, we did so with the great fans of Puerto Rico.

There’s a line spoken by Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory that motivates me everyday that I have the high honor to represent the Hall of Fame: “We are the music makers and the dreamers of the dreams.”

Understanding that baseball has the power to connect cultures, families and memories unlike anything else has never appeared more genuine than what transpired over the last four days. The people of Puerto Rico were so honored and moved by this celebration that is impossible not to be realize that for so many we encountered, this was truly a dream come true that we were able to facilitate.

“From Puerto Rico to Cooperstown. From Cooperstown to Puerto Rico.”
(in Spanish: “De Borinquen a Cooperstown. De Cooperstown a Borinquen.”)

It served as the title for our journey – in English and Spanish – and as we return home, it is crystal clear the journey doesn’t end, and it does not have boundaries created by language. Rather, it continues a cycle of baseball history celebrated for nearly a century in the universal appreciation for the game and its heroes.

We are so honored and thankful for your kindness and hospitality, to everyone we encountered and all of those who shared a memory by viewing these treasures and baseball heroes.

Gracias Puerto Rico!

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Perez at home in Puerto Rico

By Brad Horn

A very special surprise awaited Tony Perez on Friday night during the opening ceremonies of the Puerto Rico plaque tour at the Museo del Deporte de Puerto Rico in Guaynabo.

Joined by fellow Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Orlando Cepeda, along with Vera Clemente, the widow of Roberto Clemente, Perez was soaking in an evening of great baseball memories for Museum supporters and the unveiling of the Hall of Fame plaques on loan from Cooperstown, N.Y., for four days here in the baseball-rich island commonwealth when the surprise announcement came.

With both of his sons – Eduardo, the former major leaguer, and Victor, an actor presently living in London – in attendance, Perez received an unexpected recognition during the ceremony, as Henry Neumann, Secretary of the Department of Sports and Recreation for Puerto Rico, brought a special declaration from Governor Luis Fortuno.

Neumann read the proclamation of Tony Perez as an official “native son” of Puerto Rico, recognizing him for his dedication to the commonwealth as a family and community member, and for his impressive baseball accolades achieved while representing the island.

“We thank Tony for all that his adopted Puerto Rican man has done for Puerto Rican sports, for his native homeland, and for his children’s homeland,” said Neumann.

For Perez, who immigrated to Puerto Rico from Cuba at age 16, the honor was beyond emotional.

“It is not too easy to talk today,” said Perez to the audience of dignitaries and Museum supporters. “Since I have lived here, I feel like a Puerto Rican. I was welcomed with open arms when I got here. My wife (Pituka) has been welcomed here, my children were born here. My friends live here. This is my home.”

Following the ceremony, the plaques were unveiled and on Saturday morning, visitors began filing into the Museo del Deporte to see the plaques of their Puerto Rican heroes – Perez included – on display from Cooperstown.

Long-considered a Puerto Rican at heart, Tony Perez celebrated Friday night with the formal recognition from his adopted homeland as one of their own.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Baseball royalty in the Commonwealth

By Brad Horn

Here in Guaynabo, the opening ceremonies for the Puerto Rico plaque tour got under way on Friday night.

On stage, Hall of Famers Tony Perez, Orlando Cepeda and Robbie Alomar were joined by Vera Clemente in a festive reception at the Museum del Deporte de Puerto Rico.

Hall of Fame plaques of the three living Puerto Rican stars, along with the plaque of Roberto Clemente, are making their way around the island this weekend.

Other baseball dignitaries in attendance on Friday included Robbie’s father, Sandy, and Tony’s son, Eduardo, both former major league stars, along with former big league pitcher Ed Figueroa. Former wrestler Alvin Lopez, aka Barabas, was also in attendance.

Students from the Guaynabo School for the Arts also performed traditional Puerto Rican musical entertainment.

The festivities continue with the public viewing of the plaques today here at the Museo.

On Sunday, the plaques will visit Guyama in the morning and Salinas in the afternoon. The tour concludes Monday in Ponce.

Brad Horn is the senior director of communications and education at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

A trip to the Island

By Erik Strohl

On Friday morning, Hall of Fame director of security Evan Chase and I were picked up at our hotel and driven to the Sports Museum of Puerto Rico in Guaynabo by local baseball historian extraordinaire Jorge Colon Delgado. Jorge also met us at the airport on arrival Thursday night, and he has been exuding excitement about our visit from the first minute.

Bringing the Hall of Fame plaques of Roberto Alomar, Orlando Cepeda, Roberto Clemente and Tony Perez to Puerto Rico has everyone connected to the Museum feeling giddy. They have been working hard for months in anticipation of our visit. It is obvious that much time has been spent in preparation for this event.

When we arrived at the Museum shortly after 10 a.m. on Friday, we were greeted by Rafi Serrano and a number of his staff who were working hard in final preparation for this evening’s extravaganza. The purpose of our morning’s visit was to supervise the installation of the four plaques.

It is obvious much care has been taken in order for the presentation of the plaques to look topnotch. The Museum constructed four sided wooden pillars about seven feet high. One side contains the plaque, while the opposite side will house a TV showing highlights from each player. The other two sides contain photos from each player’s career from both their time in Puerto Rico as well as the major leagues. One of these pillars has been built for each of the four Hall of Famers.

Several employees jumped right in as the sound of power tools and the sight of screwdrivers became immediately prevalent. The employees all gathered around in excitement as each of the plaques was installed in succession. Everyone was taking photos and each staff member was pitching in. It was a fun moment and obvious to us that just participating in this pre-event was a special moment for each one of our hosts. The installation took about 15 minutes or so for each plaque, finishing up the job in a little over an hour.

Tonight will be the main event and we are all very excited. It is hopeful that the Governor of Puerto Rico will be able to attend, as well as many other local mayors and other dignitaries. And of course Alomar, Cepeda, and Perez will be present, along with Vera Clemente and other members of the Clemente family. It is sure to be a fun-filled evening and an unbridled celebration of Puerto Rican baseball.

The people here are so passionate about the game. Just hearing them talk about their heroes and the anticipation for this evening is enough to make any baseball fan feel humbled, including members of the Hall of Fame staff like myself. It is a reminder what a powerful hold baseball has on many people of various localities around the world. We have been here less than 24 hours and we already feel so very special because of the unbelievable hospitality we have received.

I can’t wait for tonight. It is sure to be one special evening filled with smiles, laughter, and perhaps even a few tears. It is wonderful to see how much this game and its history mean to the people of Puerto Rico.

Erik Strohl is the senior director of exhibitions and collections for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Homeland heroes

By Jeff Idelson

Twelve years ago, the Hall of Fame corrected a faux pas. At the time of it’s origination, it was barely noticed, but in today’s world was considered a glaring mistake. 

In 1973, when he was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame after a tragic plane crash took his life, his plaque read “Roberto Walker Clemente” when it should have been “Roberto Clemente Walker.” 

At the time, the concern was that fans would not understand the Latino tradition of one having your mother’s maiden name follow your father’s last name. In 1999 we felt it was important to correct this cultural mistake, which truly was done for the right reasons in 1973, but today would appear to be insensitive.

We brought the new plaque to San Juan, Carolina, the home town of Roberto Clemente, and a few other places in 2000. I had Clemente’s plaque postcard translated into Spanish. We handed them out to children in Puerto Rico. It was an unabashed hit.

This year we worked closely with the Museo del Deporte in Guyanabo and its director, Rafi Serrano, to bring 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Roberto Alomar’s plaque to Puerto Rico so that those from his native land who could not be in Cooperstown, would have a chance to see it. We extended the concept to honor all three Puerto Rican Hall of Famers, Alomar, Orlando Cepeda and Clemente, as well as adopted Puerto Rican son, Tany Perez, who moved to the Island from Cuba when he was 16.

We left Cooperstown Thursday, traveling from Syracuse, through JFK Airport in New York, to San Juan. Traveling with four plaques is not easy. Each one, with the backing and case, weighs close to 40 pounds. Four of us each took one as carry on luggage.

Walking through airport security, we had many quizzical looks and then there were smiles as proud central New Yorkers working security thought it was great that plaques from their home region were traveling abroad.

The flights were easy. We were met upon arrival by a delegate from the Museum here in Puerto Rico who took us to the Museum to secure the four plaques for the evening.

After checking into the hotel, we walked over to Lupi’s, a restaurant owned by former pitching great Ed Figueroa. Our group sat at a long table with Ed and had a wonderful evening catching on baseball. He was glad to see us. Dinner was terrific.

Jeff Idelson is the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Family pack

By Craig Muder

Sandy Alomar Sr. bounded up the steps to the first tee on Saturday, looking – except for his graying hair – much like the gritty middle infielder who played 15 big league seasons from 1964-78.

At 67 years old, the father of Roberto Alomar hasn’t slowed down a bit. And while celebrating his son’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend, Sandy Sr. is determined to enjoy every minute of the experience.

Sandy Sr. has renewed many friendships this weekend at the Hall of Fame as he prepares to watch Roberto be inducted at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday in Cooperstown. He spent Saturday morning on the golf course at the Baseball Hall of Fame Invitational, blasting drives down the center of the fairway.

“It’s been a terrific weekend,” Sandy Sr. said. “I am proud to be here for my son.”

Bert Blyleven, who along with Pat Gillick and Roberto Alomar comprises the Class of 2011, also had family in the Invitational: His son Todd Blyleven and his brother Joe Blyleven.

“It’s great to be here with my family,” Blyleven said. “It’s just an amazing feeling.”

It’s about to get even better – during weekend that is all about family and Cooperstown.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Broadcast history

By Samantha Carr

Curt Smith was 11 years old the first time he visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, and he’s been back more than 75 times since.

“And the novelty hasn’t faded,” he said.

But for visitors in Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend, Smith’s Authors’ Series program made it a visit to remember. Smith, a columnist, University of Rochester lecturer and former presidential speechwriter, has written a new book entitled A Talk in the Park: Nine Decades of Tales from the Broadcast Booth.

“This book features 116 announcers – the largest collection of any sports book ever – sharing stories from baseball history,” said Smith. “Some are very poignant and touching and others – it is like the book Joe Garagiola wrote called Baseball is a Funny Game. It’s true.”

And Smith delighted Hall of Fame visitors on Friday by sharing stories from a number of chapters in the book.

Like Ken Harrelson, broadcaster for the Chicago White Sox and former major leaguer who defended his one handed catch by saying, ” with hands as bad as mine, one hand is better than two.”

Or Steve Blass, who was one of the only players in baseball history who was traded in Little League. He was moved from the Yankees to the Giants because the Yankees didn’t have a uniform small enough to fit him. Each big league team and network is represented in the book – so every baseball fan can find something that touches their baseball experience. The voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, Jerry Howarth, in town for the induction of Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick, attended the program and shared some laughs at stories of his broadcast colleagues.

Garagiola once said to Yogi Berra that he was amazed that Berra was such a world figure, he drew more applause than a president or prime minister. When he asked Berra how he explained it, Berra responded, “Easy, I’m a better hitter.”

The book is available in the Museum Bookstore and a portion of the proceeds from the book benefit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

One final story told by Smith was a quote from 2008 Ford C. Frick Award winner Dave Niehaus, broadcaster for the Seattle Mariners who passed away last year at the young age of 75. Niehaus described his impressions of Cooperstown.

“When you come here you know there is no place like it in the world. It’s like going to Disney World, but you don’t have to pay for rides.”

Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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