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Chicago Tribune

Alomars' Goal: Stay With Sox


September 28, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Chicago Tribune. All rights reserved. 

They have done it all--almost--in long, distinguished and periodically intersecting careers only a screenwriter could have dreamed up. Although this season will end in disappointment for the Alomar brothers, who have yet to play on a championship team together, both hope their names will be back on the White Sox marquee next season.

"I would love to finish here now that I'm here," said Roberto Alomar, 35, the sure-fire Hall of Fame second baseman who was reunited with his older sibling for the third time when the Sox acquired him from the Mets in July.

"I would love to see them give another opportunity to Sandy, and if I have an opportunity to get 3,000 hits, I'd like to do it here. What better way to end it than with us on the same team?"

White Sox officials have initiated conversations with both players. Sandy Alomar Jr. is frank about his desire to stay in Chicago and realistic about his future relative to his younger brother's. At 37, he has undergone eight knee operations and is viewed as a part-time player and mentor to younger players.

"Honestly, I don't know how many more years I'm going to last," he said last week. "But I've been saying that for the last five years and I'm still here and I feel like I'm still doing the job.

"Robbie has a lot more to play for than I do. He has 3,000 hits to chase, and it'll probably take two-plus years. My goals are year to year. I want to play whether we're together or not. I was healthy most of the year. I felt good. My role has diminished and I'll probably be able to last longer. But it would be good if we were together. It would be a lot nicer for our family and our careers."

The Puerto Rican-born brothers, sons of current Colorado Rockies coach and onetime Sox second baseman Sandy Alomar Sr., have identical warm brown eyes but bring very different physiques and skills to bear on the game. They have played against and with each other in the regular season, the All-Star Game and the playoffs.

Sandy Jr., the 1990 American League Rookie of the Year and a six-time All-Star, built a reputation for clutch hitting and clubhouse leadership despite an injury-marred career. Roberto, a lyrical fielder, always has been a valuable commodity because of his savvy and ability to ignite an offense. Roberto, who is single, sleeps late, and Sandy Jr., married with four children, rises early to get his battered body in gear. Sandy Jr. is outspoken where Roberto is reserved.

Since July they have had plenty of time together at the ballpark, but they seldom socialize off the field. Sandy Jr. owns a home in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood and has given his brother some pointers about the city.

Both say they want to respect the other's privacy. There is an occasional dinner out, and a much anticipated full family reunion each Christmas in Puerto Rico.

"People think we hold hands, but we don't," Sandy Jr. said.

Perhaps because of their obvious differences, the two weren't competitive even as children.

"Honestly, I just realized he was a better player than I was," Sandy Jr. said. "He still is. He's a complete package.

"I had no reason to be jealous of my brother. As a matter of fact, I idolize him, and I showcase him to other people."

After a brief stint as teammates in San Diego early in their careers, the brothers parted ways. Roberto earned two World Series rings with Toronto and moved on to the Baltimore Orioles. They teamed up again in 1999 and 2000 in Cleveland, where Sandy Jr. spent most of his career.

As opponents, the brothers say they kept a professional distance, partly to squelch any suspicion that they might try to tip each other to signs.

"At second base I might say, `How are you doing, is everything good, good hit,'" Roberto said. "But when I go to home plate, I try not to even look at my brother. It's hard. You know he's right there."

If one had a great day, the other felt a natural conflict.

"You can't demonstrate anything, but inside, you're happy," Roberto said. "If you love your brother, you don't want him to fail. My brother's always going to be my best friend, and I'm always going to want him to do the best job."

By far the most difficult dynamic between them emotionally came in 1996 and 1997, when the Indians and Orioles faced each other in the American League Championship Series two years running.

The first year, on the heels of a spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck, Roberto was booed thunderously by Cleveland fans each time he came to the plate, squeezing Sandy Jr.'s heart like a vise. Roberto nonetheless wound up hitting the tying single and winning home run that eliminated the Indians.

In 1997, with odd dramatic symmetry, Roberto struck out to end the Orioles' season. As the younger brother had done the year before, the older brother came to offer congratulations afterward.

"It was kind of hard to see him walk away, but he said he was happy that at least one Alomar was going to go to the World Series," Sandy Jr. said.

The brothers won't be riding a tandem bike into this year's playoffs, but both see a bright spot in the chance they will get to share another season in this precious last phase of their playing days.

"It was special then, but I think it's more special now," Roberto said.

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