It’s still a novelty to have a Hall of Famer amongst us in the International League. Lehigh Valley is managed by Ryne Sandberg. Tuesday night at Coca Cola Park, there was another HoFer on hand. A freshly minted one, at that. Pat Gillick was honored by the Iron Pigs, a little more than 48 hours after he was enshrined among the immortals of the game. Gillick is the former Toronto Blue Jays executive who constructed the 1992 and 1993 World Series Champions. He did the same for Philadelphia, putting together their 2009 winner. Gillick, now in semi-retirement, is an adviser for the Phils.
Gillick had no problem when asked about what his most vivid memory of the weekend in Cooperstown was. “Being around that array of talent that’s in the Hall of Fame and when you get up on stage with that group, you look at the players that have had the opportunity to be in the Hall and you really are amazed. It huimbles you pretty quickly.” In all his years in the game, the thought of being a member of this ultra-exclusive fraternity never crossed his mind. “I never imagined it at all. I was stunned when the call came in December. I was honored and humbled and at the same time, very stunned about it.”
Gillick is not, of course , the first executive to be honored. He remembered those who paved the way for guys like him. “Men like Branch Rickey and Lee MacPhail, those are people who had a lot of love and passion for the game. I feel the same way. You want the game to succeed and get better. I don’t know if I’m like them. Hopefully, I can be 50% of what they are.”
It almost seemed ludicrous to give away a Pat Gillick bobblehead doll in Allentown just two days after the biggest honor of his life, but Gillick played along, even throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to fellow HoFer, Sandberg. “I don’t collect them. I don’t have any at home, but I will say that I think they did a pretty good job with mine. They made me look skinny.” Gillick laughed.
Gillick is glad that the Philly club he assembled still has the nucleus in place, but he recognizes the evolution set forth by G.M. Ruben Amaro, Jr. “We used to try to bludgeon teams to death. Scored a lot of runs and won games. He’s done a good job turining us from an offensive club to a pitching/defense club. He deserves a lot of credit for that. We’re on a run and we want to stay on a run.”