Hirschbeck hopes Alomar gains Hall election

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NEW YORK (AP) — Andre Dawson has been waiting for years. For Roberto Alomar, it was the first time on the ballot.

Players get nervous on the day each year that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announces voting for the sport’s highest honor: the Hall of Fame.

“I’m positive that it’s going to happen this year,” Alomar said Tuesday, a day before this year’s totals were to be announced by the BBWAA.

Edgar Martinez, Barry Larkin and Fred McGriff also were new to the ballot this year, and Martinez was a test of how Hall voters assess players who were predominantly designated hitters.

Holdovers include Mark McGwire, Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris and Lee Smith.

Players must appear on at least 75 percent of the ballots to gain election.

A 12-time All-Star second baseman, Alomar was among 15 first-time candidates. He was suspended for five games following his September 1996 confrontation with John Hirschbeck in Toronto’s SkyDome, when he spat on the umpire during an argument following a called third strike.

“I know we both wish it didn’t happen, but it did,” Hirschbeck said Tuesday, after he called Alomar to wish him luck in the vote. “On the other hand, I’ve told a lot of people who have called, I think it made us both better people for it.”

At the time, Alomar said he thought Hirschbeck was under stress because his 8-year-old son, John Drew, had died in 1993 of a rare brain disease. The player and umpire shook hands at Camden Yards the following April, and within a few years Alomar and his brother Sandy Jr. started helping raise money for a foundation the Hirschbecks started.

Alomar worked to repair his image during the latter half of his 17-season major league career, which ended in 2004. He wants to be remembered for his bat and his glove, not his saliva.

“That’s not me. Everybody knows who I am. It was one stupid moment that happened to me when I played,” Alomar said. “The main thing is I accepted my mistake. We are all human, and I went to John and apologized to him. And we’re both great friends. Out of something bad, something good happened. We have a great friendship.”

Alomar finished with a .300 career average, 2,724 hits, 210 homers, 474 steals, 10 Gold Gloves and four Silver Sluggers. A standout during his time with San Diego (1988-90), Toronto (1991-95), Baltimore (1996-98) and Cleveland (1999-01), his play deteriorated substantially while he was with the New York Mets (2002-03).

“In New York, if you don’t do as well as you want to do, then you’re going to hear some criticism,” said Alomar, who finished with the Chicago White Sox and Arizona.

There are 26 candidates for the Hall, up from 23 last year, when Rickey Henderson was elected in his first appearance and Jim Rice made it on his 15th and final try. Dawson fell 44 votes shy of the 75 percent needed and Blyleven was 67 short.

The last time the BBWAA failed to elect anyone was 1996 — and that was only the seventh election since the original selection in 1936 with no winners.

McGwire, hired in October as hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, is on the ballot for the fourth time. Eighth on the career list with 583 homers, he has been stigmatized since evading questions from Congress in 2005 about steroids use. McGwire received 118 votes (22 percent) last year, down from 128 in each of his first two tries.

Anyone elected will be inducted July 25 at Cooperstown along with manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey, elected last month by the Veterans Committee.