- Associated Press - Sunday, July 31, 2011

TORONTO (AP) - Flanked by two red-clad Mounties and soaking in the cheers, Roberto Alomar made his way onto the field Sunday as his No. 12 was retired by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The newly inducted Hall of Famer is a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner. He is the first Blue Jays player to have his number retired in the club’s 35-year history.

Alomar spent only five seasons in Toronto, but those were the team’s glory years. The Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, with Alomar making dazzling plays at second base.

Alomar addressed the crowd before the game against the Texas Rangers. As his number was unfurled on a blue banner high above the field at Rogers Centre a fan yelled: “I love you Robbie!” Without missing a beat, Alomar said: “I love you, too! I love all you guys!”

He was joined on stage in center field, just in front of a giant No. 12 that covered second base, by former manager Cito Gaston, team president and CEO Paul Beeston, his parents and former teammates.

Wearing a dark blue suit and red tie, Alomar reflected on the moment and the two titles in Toronto.

“When I was a little boy I never expected to have my number retired,” he told the crowd of 45,629. “I just played the game I love. My mom and dad taught me it doesn’t matter how much money you earn, what you achieve or how much of a celebrity you are _ always be humble, and that’s who I am.”

It has been a whirlwind week for Alomar, who along with former Jays general manager Pat Gillick was inducted to the Hall of Fame last weekend. He’s the first player enshrined wearing a Blue Jays hat.

“This is a day that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Alomar said after the ceremony. “To share this moment with the fans and my family is emotional.”

Alomar joined the Blue Jays with Joe Carter in a December 1990 trade with San Diego for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. His ninth-inning home run in Game 4 of the 1992 AL championship series off Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley helped put Toronto into its first World Series.

“I predict it will be many years before another number is even considered (for retirement),” Beeston told the crowd.

Alomar signed with Baltimore after the 1995 season and went on to play with Cleveland, the New York Mets, Chicago White Sox and Arizona. In his 17-year career, he batted .300 with 2,724 hits and 210 home runs.

He was also involved in one of baseball’s uglier moments. While with the Orioles in 1996, he was suspended after spitting in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck. The two later made up, but some fans refused to forget. On Sunday, however, that was all but forgotten.

“Robbie’s the greatest second baseman to ever play this game,” Gaston said on stage. “We’d like to thank you Robbie, for all that you’ve done for us.”

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