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Drafted by Minnesota in the third round of the 1969 amateur draft, Blyleven became youngest pitcher in the majors when the Twins called him up June 2, 1970, after just 21 minor league starts.

“Really, when I signed I didn’t know how high I could go,” Blyleven said. “I knew it was going to be a long road.”

That long road included stops with the Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and California Angels. Blyleven also had a second stint with the Twins beginning in 1985, and two years later he formed an imposing duo at the top of the rotation with lefty Frank Viola. The team scrapped its way to 85 wins and a World Series title, the second for Blyleven (he also was on the champion 1979 Pirates).

Despite his considerable accomplishments on the field, Blyleven, who’s also served 15 years as an analyst for the Twins, watched and waited for what must have seemed like a lifetime before he was selected. It took 14 tries for him to finally cross the 75 percent threshold, receiving votes on 79.7 percent of the ballots in the results released in January.

It was a long climb after receiving only 14.1 percent of the vote in 1999, his second year of eligibility, and the death of his dad in 2004 of Parkinson’s disease only heightened the hurt Blyleven felt.

“At first he was angry and he kind of vented, but after a while we got to where it was like a given,” said Blyleven’s wife, Gayle. “So we’d tell the local people we were out of town and we weren’t.

“We didn’t want to hear about the disappointment. (In 2010) we were so surprised that he jumped so high we weren’t angry at all. It was amazing. It just shows you how the writers have your destiny and how hard it is (to get in).”

Alomar also had to bide his time, but for a very different reason and not nearly so long.

Born into a baseball family _ Alomar’s father, Sandy, was an infielder who played 15 years in the major leagues and his older brother, Sandy Jr., forged a 20-year big-league career as a catcher _ Alomar grew up in the presence of big leaguers. And instead of horsing around in the dugout as a kid, he absorbed everything he saw and heard at the ballpark.

That paid off when he signed in 1985 with the San Diego Padres as a 17-year-old. Three years later, on April 22, 1988, Alomar made his major league debut memorable when he singled off future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan in his first at-bat in the majors.

Two years later, Alomar was an All-Star for the first time, and that’s when Gillick, general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, stepped in and made the signature trade of his standout career. Gillick sent Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff to the Padres in exchange for Alomar and Joe Carter in a blockbuster deal in December 1990.

With the switch-hitting Alomar at the top of his game, the Blue Jays reached the ALCS the next season, then won consecutive World Series titles in 1992 and 1993.

Alomar spent five seasons in Toronto before finishing his career in stints with the Orioles, Indians, Mets, White Sox and Diamondbacks.

Alomar’s failure to become just the fourth second baseman _ and 45th player _ to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer was the result of a one blemish on a remarkable career.

Forget the 2,724 hits, 210 home runs, 1,134 RBIs, .300 career batting average, World Series titles, 12 All-Star appearances, and 10 Gold Gloves. A spray of saliva in a September 1996 game in Toronto’s SkyDome tarnished Alomar’s stellar reputation.

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