The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Omar Vizquel dazzles Indians fans again as he's inducted into team's Hall of Fame

  • Print

CLEVELAND - Omar Vizquel hasn't played for the Indians in a decade, but the passion Cleveland fans feel for him is still strong.

The 11-time Gold Glove shortstop was inducted into the Indians' Hall of Fame before Saturday night's game against Detroit in front of a sellout crowd. Vizquel, who thrilled fans with his dazzling play at shortstop for the Indians from 1994-2004, was a cornerstone of the teams that won five straight AL Central titles and appeared in the World Series twice.

Currently the first base and infield coach for the Tigers, Vizquel remains wildly popular with Indians fans, who gave him a standing ovation when he walked on the field for Saturday's ceremony.

"The fans here have always been great to me," he said. "I loved playing for them. Whenever I come back and walk around the city, people come up to me. Cleveland will always be a special place for me."

On a team that included offensive stars such as Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, Roberto Alomar and Carlos Baerga, Vizquel turned in defensive plays that made the highlight reel on a nightly basis. The Indians sold out 455 consecutive games and Vizquel's defence produced as many memories as the home runs that flew out of the ballpark.

"I've always taken pride in defence," he said. "That's what got me to the big leagues in the first place. Very few times do you see people give standing ovations for players making fancy plays. It's easy to clap and cheer when somebody hits a home run, but very few times do you see it defensively."

Vizquel, who played in the majors for 24 seasons, perfected the art of grabbing groundballs with his bare hand and catching infield popups with his back to home plate.

"Those plays always felt natural for me," he said. "I never really thought about how I was going to do them."

Vizquel and Alomar formed one of the best double-play combinations in baseball history from 1999-2001. Vizquel also played alongside Baerga for three seasons. The two turned a mock double play before Vizquel gave his induction speech.

The sellout was just the second at Progressive Field this season. A plaque honouring Vizquel, who became the 40th member of the team's Hall of Fame, was unveiled in Heritage Park behind centre field.

Vizquel broke into the majors with Seattle in 1989. He remembered that many thought he'd be a career .240 hitter, but he improved his offence throughout his career. Vizquel ended his career with 2,877 career hits and a .272 average.

"I was still learning how to switch-hit when I got to the majors," he said. "It took some time. I worked hard to improve my offence. It helped me a lot that I had so many great hitters in the lineup around me."

Indians manager Terry Francona remembers seeing Vizquel in winter ball about 30 years ago.

"He was probably 18 and he couldn't hit the ball out of the infield, but you could see a kid that, it's like he didn't need a glove at shortstop," Francona said. "And then you look up a couple years later and it's Omar Vizquel. Gold Glove. Good hitter. So it's kind of interesting to watch him grow into the player he became."

Players from both teams stood in their dugout and applauded during the ceremony. Vizquel quickly changed into uniform to take his coaching position for the first inning.

Vizquel retired following the 2012 season and will be eligible for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.

"I haven't thought about it too much," he said. "I'm just glad that I had a great career, and that people can talk about my numbers and compare me with some of the guys that are there. I think this ceremony will open some eyes to look back and see some of the numbers in my career and make a decision."

The Indians acquired Vizquel from Seattle following the 1993 season. He also played for San Francisco, Texas, the Chicago White Sox and Toronto.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Keri Latimer looks for beauty in the dark and the spaces between the notes

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Challenges of Life- Goose Goslings jump over railway tracks to catch up to their parents at the Canadian Pacific Railway terminalon Keewatin St in Winnipeg Thursday morning. The young goslings seem to normally hatch in the truck yard a few weeks before others in town- Standup photo- ( Day 4 of Bryksa’s 30 day goose project) - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A  young goose stuffed with bread from  St Vital park passers-by takes a nap in the shade Thursday near lunch  –see Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge Day 29-June 28, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How surpised are you by the Bombers’ 4-1 start to the season?

View Results

Ads by Google