LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Phillies baseball people were gathered their third-floor suite yesterday morning when senior advisor Pat Gillick's cell phone buzzed.
It might be . . . It could be . . . It was.
The call was to inform Gillick that he had been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Expansion Era Committee. An impromptu party broke out. A bottle of champagne with Gillick's face superimposed on the label suddenly appeared, courtesy of team travel director Frank Coppenbarger. There were hugs all around.
Gillick received 13 of the 16 ballots cast and was the only nominee to receive the necessary three-quarters majority. And while there is no question that he deserved the honor, it was a slight surprise considering all the attention that was paid to a pair of heavyweight candidates that also appeared on the ballot: Former Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Marvin Miller and late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
Miller was snubbed for the third time, falling just one vote short. And the reaction from the legendary labor leader, now 93, was both predictable and understandable.
"The Baseball Hall of Fame's vote [or non-vote] of Dec. 5 hardly qualifies as a new story," he said in a statement. "It is repetitively negative, easy to forecast and therefore boring . . . A long time ago it became apparent that the Hall sought to bury me long before my time, as a metaphor for burying the union and eradicating its real influence."
He went on to say that the institution was engaged in a "futile and fraudulent attempt to rewrite history. It is an amusing anomaly that the Hall of Fame has made me famous by keeping me out."
The only other candidate to receive at least half the votes was former Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion with eight. Steinbrenner received less than that, alomg with Ted Simmons, Vida Blue, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Billy Martin, Al Oliver and Rusty Staub.
The Expansion Era Committee, which this year included Phillies chairman Bill Giles, will vote again in 3 years.
The disappointment from those who fell short stood in stark contrast to the jubilation from the Phillies delegation attending the winter meetings.
"What I believe he's so proud of is his involvement in the scouting community. He's stood as a candidate not just for Pat Gillick, not just for the franchises he served and the success he had, but for all the people who worked day in and day out," said club president Dave Montgomery, who hired Gillick after the 2005 season and repeatedly attempted to get him to reconsider retiring after that championship season in 2008.
"Whether you're an amateur scout in Oregon, whether you're a pro scout in big-league ballparks or whether you're following the South Atlantic League, Pat Gillick had time for everybody. And with his great mind, he knew what everybody was doing and he knew what they'd seen. For him to get this acknowledgement today thrills our entire organization."
Ruben Amaro Jr. was an assistant under Gillick and then succeeded him.
"The best thing that we got out of today was the news about Pat," he said. "I can't tell you how proud and excited I am to be affiliated with him and to have Pat be inducted. I've spent time with him, worked with him, got a chance to be someone I guess I can call a friend.
"We're infinitely proud of him and I think that, to a man within our organization that he's touched, people are pretty excited for him."