Omar’s Glove Magic

 Does Omar Vizquel belong in the Hall of Fame? He lasted long enough to amass 2,877 hits and his glove work at shortstop is on a level with that of Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith (one respected Plain Dealer writer said Omar was a bit better than Ozzie). Smith wound up with 2,460 hits. I won’t bog things down with a lot of stats, and I’m not too fond of arguments such as, “Well, if Bill Mazeroski, the best glove ever at second, is in, then Ozzie AND Omar belong.” I just throw this out there for consideration.

Those who watched Vizquel a lot, like most Clevelanders, say he belongs (just as so many Pirate fans feel Maz was a deserving Cooperstown inductee). Baseball historian Morris Eckhouse said he believes Vizquel “will get in. I think it may be a couple of years yet, but Omar was a [steady player]. He was flashy, but he showed up and did his job and he was as good as it gets at shortstop.”

Having lived in the Cleveland area now since 1974, I agree that Omar was remarkable. The way he took infield practice between innings of games was unique. He was so talented with his hands that he probably got bored taking practice grounders the normal way, so he would let a ground ball thrown to him by his first baseman between innings roll up and over his gloved hand (without closing the mitt), up over his left wrist, then, and only then, he would grab the ball and make his throw to first. Sometimes, in a variation of that technique, using his old soccer skills, he would kick the rolling baseball into the air where he then would take hold of it and make his throw.

He even devised a way to catch pop ups that were blooped toward the outfield on bright sunny days. Instead of backpedaling or turning and racing to the spot where he knew the path of the ball should take him, he purposely made a Willie Mays-like catch with his back to home plate. Keep in mind, he did that when he could easily have made the catch in the usual fashion, but he had something in mind—using his method, the bill of his cap screened his eyes from the sun. One writer said that he had never before or since seen any infielder do this. 

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