Vizquel becomes all-time leader in games played at SS
MIAMI -- Immediately after turning pro in 1984, Omar Vizquel listened to those who said he was too small to stick in the major leagues. Almost 25 years later, the kid from Caracas, Venezuela, has rewritten the baseball history books.
On Sunday, the 41-year-old established a new record when he played in his 2,584th contest, surpassing fellow Venezuelan Luis Aparicio for most MLB games ever played by a shortstop. Aparicio's record dates back to 1973.
"This is truly big and amazing," Vizquel said. "I'm proud of my accomplishment, considering that it was done against all odds. No one believed that I would play for so long, perhaps because I'm so short, or maybe because I didn't have a good throw, or simply because my offensive performance was not up to expectations. Today, however, we are here talking about records and history, which makes me feel truly proud of myself."
Vizquel's path to glory suffered a setback when he had arthroscopic left knee surgery on Feb. 27.
The 5-foot-9 shortstop has won 11 Gold Gloves, second to Ozzie Smith (13), while his fielding percentage (.984) ranks first among all shortstops who have played in over 1,000 games.
But being the shortstop with the most MLB games under his belt is special.
"There are many things involved in this record: talent, persistence, having a unique charisma and the required physical traits," Vizquel said, who faced the Oakland A's in his major league debut on April 3, 1989. Then with Seattle, Vizquel was in the starting lineup until he was traded to Cleveland in 1993.
He won eight Gold Gloves with the Indians and for three years (1999-2001) teamed with Roberto Alomar to form one of the best double-play combinations in MLB history.
Defense and longevity make Vizquel a solid candidate to join Aparicio in Cooperstown's Hall of Fame.
"The scandal of steroids has darkened the chances for many players," Vizquel said of the Hall. "Logically, it increases my chances since my name has not been involved in such controversy. During my career, I have had a clean record, away from troubles, so maybe this could influence many baseball writers."
Vizquel, with the Giants since 2005, has yet to decide about retirement.
"It's all up to this year's performance," he said. "I feel capable of playing for one more year, but if I have a productive season, I don't think I'm coming back next year. I'm in the starting lineup or I won't be in the lineup at all. I won't be waiting for the starting shortstop to be tired; I wouldn't feel comfortable in that secondary role."
After hanging up the cleats, he hopes to work as a coach or manager in the big leagues.
"To be a manager has always been my ultimate goal; being a coach is another option which remains open, but my goal is to be a manager," Vizquel said.
Vizquel's Giants lost 8-6 in the first game of a doubleheader. It became the Giants' first loss after a three-game winning streak. San Francisco fell again 5-4 in Sunday's second game.Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.
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