Return to Cleveland stirs fond memories for Tribe HOF inductee Vizquel
Omar Vizquel was back at home on Friday afternoon. By tonight, he’ll be permanently enshrined in Cleveland Indians history – though let’s be honest, no one could forget him anyway.
Vizquel, one of the best defensive shortstops in MLB history, will officially become the 40th member of the Indians Hall of Fame in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday evening. On Friday afternoon, Vizquel – now the first-base coach for the Detroit Tigers – chatted with media about his career, his enshrinement.
Perhaps most apropos from the 20-minute chat: When a reporter asked Vizquel if he ever thinks back about his days in Cleveland and the team’s run in the late 1990s, he said, “Every time I come back here.”
Vizquel, who holds three Major League Baseball records (see below), is honored by his induction into the Tribe Hall.
“This is amazing,” he said of the Indians Hall of Fame honor. “When you take a look back on your career, you have few chances to be part of a Hall of Fame. It’s a prestigious thing to be in such a place, especially with all of the great players that have played here.”
Vizquel said he owed a lot of his success to his father, who hit him ground balls at a young age. He said he always knew he’d be a shortstop; he started at second base, but when a coach early in his youth career looked at him move around the infield, he said, “You’re a shortstop.”
That was born out in Vizquel’s 24-year career, when he set the MLB record for career double plays turned, with 1,735, and set an all-time record for games played at shortstop, with 2,709.
“My defense brought me to the big leagues, kept me here for a long time,” Vizquel said. “I took pride in every day and every Gold Glove I got (11).”
Yet Vizquel also handled himself well in the batter’s box, too. He batted .283 in an Indians uniform, and ranks seventh on the club’s all-time hit list with 1,616. He’s sixth on the club list for runs scored, and second in career stolen bases, with 288.
“My hitting got lost a little due to all of the great hitters we had (on those teams),” Vizquel said. “When I came up, I was a .240 hitter. Three or four years down the road, I came up with my left-handed stroke, I learned how to hit
“Having Kenny (Lofton) in front of me helped; I also got protection from Carlos (Baerga) and Albert (Belle). I learned how to play the game the right way; that’s how I survived in the bigs. I wasn’t here because I could hit the long ball. I knew the game.”
Omar by the numbers
- 2,709 – games played at shortstop in his career, an MLB record
- 1,735 – career double plays turned, an MLB record
- 1,616 – hits in an Indians uniform, seventh on the all-time franchise list
- 906 – runs scored in an Indians uniform, sixth on the Indians all-time list
- 288 – double plays in an Indians uniform, good for eighth on the club’s all-time list
- 279 – stolen bases in an Indians uniform, second all-time in Indians history
- 112 – number of runs he scored in 1999, part of a team that scored a club-record 1,009 runs
- 57 – postseason hits (seven doubles, four triples, 20 RBIs)
- 40 – Vizquel is the 40th member of the Indians Hall of Fame
- 39 – age at which Vizquel won his 11th Rawlings Gold Glove award in 2006, the oldest SS to do so
- 24 – number of consecutive seasons Vizquel recorded a sacrifice hit and stolen base, the longest and second-longest streaks in MLB history, respectively (Rickey Henderson held longest consecutive stolen base record)
- 12 – Vizquel’s rank in total games played (2,968)
- 11 – Rawlings Gold Glove awards
- 9 – consecutive Gold Glove awards won from 1993-2001
- 6 – postseason appearances (1995-99, 2001)
- 3 – number of American League All-Star team spots he earned
- 2 – American League pennants he won (1995, 1997)
- 2 – number of children (Nico, Caylee)
- .985 — career fielding percentage at shortstop, the MLB record
- .283 – batting average in an Indians uniform