Pat Gillick elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

Former Toronto Blue Jays general manager, Pat Gillick, was elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame this morning.

The mastermind of the Jays’ two World Series-winning squads was the only candidate elected by the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Expansion-Era committee. Gillick secured 13 of a possible 16 votes from the committee that consists of former players, executives and baseball writers. Twelve votes were required for enshrinement. George Steinbrenner, former Blue Jay and Expo Al Oliver and ex-Expo Rusty Staub were among the others considered for induction.

“Pat Gillick is the ultimate professional, a classy, intellectual, book-smart, street-smart, people person with a keen eye for projecting talent,” said Tom Valcke, president & CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario.

Born in Chico, Calif., in 1937, Gillick spent five years in the Baltimore Orioles system, before arm troubles forced him into a scouting position with the Houston Colt .45’s when he was just 26. He would work in scouting capacities with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees until he became the Jays’ vice-president of player personnel on August 16, 1976.  With Gillick as GM, the Jays recorded 11 consecutive winning seasons (1983 to 1993), captured five division titles and won two World Championships.

After leaving the Jays in 1994, Gillick guided three more franchises to post-season berths: Baltimore (1996, 1997), Seattle (2000, 2001) and Philadelphia (2007, 2008). He’s the only GM in major league history to guide four different clubs to the playoffs. When the Philadelphia Phillies won the Fall Classic in 2008, Gillick added a third championship to his resume. Now a senior advisor to the president with the Phillies, Gillick has maintained close ties with Canada. He became a dual citizen while working in Toronto and owned a home in the city. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, and with the announcement this morning, Gillick becomes the seventh man inducted into both the Canadian shrine and the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

When contacted earlier today, Valcke, who worked in scouting prior to his current post, shared a story about Gillick’s talent evaluation skills.

“Back in May of 1993, a few dozen power players in the industry flew into Edmonton for what was likely going to be the final evaluation of blue-chip prospect Reginald Quentin Young (a.k.a., Joe Young), prior to the upcoming MLB draft,” recalled Valcke. “Young never panned out to be the next Jack Morris that I tagged him to be, but at this point in his baseball evolution, he was a hot property. Tough as nails, body-beautiful, and a solid fastball for his foundation. Because the general managers and scouting directors who were in attendance were on a clock, I was advised ahead of time not to pull my usual stunt of adding another 20 ‘follows’ to the workout that I wanted to showcase while these gurus were going to be in the neighborhood. Begrudgingly, I limited the players to six, including a marginal prospect named Mike Johnson, a rare, dual-position guy who I liked a bit more as a pitcher than an outfielder because I wasn’t confident that he would develop the power necessary to bat everyday in the big leagues.

“There wasn’t much diplomacy in scouting circles in those days. And while the first five players ran, threw from the outfield, took ground balls and then batting practice, the majority of the big shooters didn’t seem to give a hoot, sitting in their cars, talking on their phones, snacking, chatting with each other, etc. When we gathered the three players on the mound who were slated to pitch, including Young, Johnson, and another whose name I can’t recall, they suddenly clustered together and yanked out their radar guns.

“Young was impressive, and while he was liked by everyone, the Blue Jays obviously liked him best because they selected him in the third round. But it was the 17th-round pick by the Blue Jays that this story is really about. Johnson wasn’t overly impressive on the mound that day, appearing to be not much more than yet another skinny six-foot righty who threw 80 miles-per-hour, who were a dime a dozen south of the border.  Nobody hardly took note. But the Jays drafted Johnson in the 17th round. Why?  Because Gillick, while everyone else was doing anything but scouting, carefully studied every player on the field that day. When he observed Johnson throwing from right field, he saw that Johnson had significantly more velocity from there than he showed when he toed the rubber. Gillick saw that Johnson’s arm strength was there, and that it just needed to be coached out of him on the mound with some mechanical work. While Joe Young didn’t wind up making it to the show, Mike Johnson did. Gillick, once again, had the edge. It was just another day in the life of Pat Gillick, but the guy just never missed a trick.”

*I would recommend visiting the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s website at www.baseballhalloffame.ca for more information on Pat Gillick.

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