Vladimir Guerrero with Angels star Albert Pujols. (Photo by Omar Silva)
By Robert Dominguez
Vladimir Guerrero may have just missed getting into baseball’s Hall of Fame this year, but at least the former Angel managed to get his wings.
The Dominican Republic native was inducted into the Anaheim Angels’ Hall of Fame in an on-field ceremony Aug. 26 — an honor that showed how important he is to Angels history considering Guerrero only played six seasons of his 16-year career with the team.
But the hulking hitting star was a formidable presence in the middle of the Angels lineup, as Anaheim made the playoffs five out of the six years (2004-2009) he played there.
Guerrero, who spent his first eight seasons with the Montreal Expos before signing with the Angels as a free agent, also won his only MVP award in 2004, his first year with his new team, when he smashed 39 HR and 206 hits, had 126 RBI, batted .337 and scored 124 runs.
With the Angels, Guerrero hit .319 with 173 homers and 616 RBI, and became the 15th person chosen to the team’s Hall of Fame.
Overall, the nine-time all-star retired in 2011 at age 36 with a Cooperstown-worthy .318 average, 449 home runs, 1,496 RBI, 2,590 hits and 181 stolen bases.
The rightfielder was also known for having one of the strongest arms in baseball.
While he will have to wait ’til next year for his very likely induction into the big Hall — he received 71.7% of the vote; 75% is required — Guerrero was ecstatic to be honored by the Angels.
The ceremony — which included a VIP reception hosted by the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic, where he is revered for being one of the island’s biggest and earliest superstars — was attended by such former Angels icons and teammates as Garret Anderson, Rod Carew, Chuck Finley, Bobby Grich and Tim Salmon.
Despite all the love on display, Guerrero was still coy about which cap he would wear when he’s finally enshrined in Cooperstown.
“I don’t know yet,” Guerrero said at the ceremony. “I have great years here with the Angels. I have great years with the Expos, but I won’t make the decision now.”
First, he said, he has to actually be voted into the Hall.
“I was very happy because it’s the first time I was in the vote,” Guerrero said. “I was very close. I hope next year I can make it.”
Robert Dominguez is the co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.”