As the talent pool for Major League Baseball has continued to expand internationally, it is just a matter of time before the Hall of Fame welcomes more foreign-born players. The only two inductees this year will be Roberto Alomar and Bery Blyleven, both foreign-born players.
Blyleven was born in the Netherlands, and he grew up in Southern California. Alomar came from Puerto Rico and honed his craft there until he signed with the San Diego Padres as a teenager, looking to follow his father and brother into what essentially became the Alomar family business.
(Yes, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, but it fields its own team at events such as the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics, so for the purposes of this discussion, it is designated as foreign. Bernie Williams, who was born in San Juan, is eligible for induction in 2012.)
But amazingly, there were just seven foreign-born MLB players in the Hall before Alomar and Blyleven were elected (not including three Negro Leaguers). England’s Harry Wright played some ball in the 1870s but the Hall’s website lists him as an executive, so we’re not counting him. Only major leaguers listed with a position qualify. Our apologies, Harry. Now onto the list of the previous seven.
1) Roberto Clemente, 1973
Clemente was the quintessential two-way player, collecting 3,000 career hits and 240 home runs while showing off one of the best outfield arms in the history of the game. Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, the former Pirate had a distinguished major league career, but he will be most remembered for his humility and desire to help others. Clemente died in a plane crash at 38 while flying relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua, and he would probably be honored to know that he is the first foreign-born major leaguer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
2) Juan Marichal, 1983
Marichal broke onto the bigs in July 1960 by throwing a one-hitter against the Phillies. He then took his signature leg kick into the Hall as a member of the Giants. Marichal represented the Dominican Republic well by winning 243 career games and posting a 2.89 career ERA. In 471 career outings, Marichal threw 244 complete games.
3) Luis Aparicio, 1984
Aparicio, a product of Venezuela, played shortstop for the White Sox and also spent time with the Orioles and Red Sox. In 18 seasons, Aparicio collected 2,677 hits, made 10 All-Star teams and led the American League in stolen bases nine times. Aparicio never recorded a single out at a position other than shortstop.
4) Rod Carew, 1991
Carew, from Panama, was known for his ability to make contact and get on base. Carew finished his career with 3,053 hits and a .393 on-base percentage. In 19 seasons, the left-handed hitting Carew made 18 All-Star teams and won the 1977 A.L. MVP. Only Ty Cobb, Tony Gwynn and Honus Wagner have more batting titles than Carew, whose No. 29 was retired by both the Twins and Angels.
5) Ferguson Jenkins, 1991
And Canada is on the board. Jenkins, a right-handed pitcher from Ontario, went into the Hall wearing a Cubs hat. He won 284 games in 19 big league seasons, including seven 20-win seasons. Jenkins’ 3.34 career ERA is impressive, but he will be remembered as having superb control of a sinker and slider. Jenkins is the only man ever to strike out 3,000 batters while walking fewer than 1,000.
6) Orlando Cepeda, 1999
Cepeda came from Puerto Rico to play 17 seasons in the majors, most prominently as a power-hitting first baseman with the Giants. The seven-time All-Star had a career .297 batting average with 379 home runs and 1,365 runs batted in. As it turns out, Cepeda was destined to be a great hitter. When his father, Pedro Perucho Cepeda, earned himself the title of “Babe Ruth of the Caribbean,” what other choice did Orlando have? He was destined to swing a bat.
7) Tony Perez, 2000
Perez went into the Hall of Fame as a first baseman remembered for playing a large role on Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine teams of the 1970s. The Reds plucked Perez out of a sugar-cane factory in Cuba, and he went on to collect more than 2,700 hits, 379 home runs and two World Series championships.