Bert Blyleven

Bert Blyleven (born Rik Aalbert Blijleven, April 6, 1951) is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played from 1970 to 1992. A renowned curveball pitcher, Blyleven was a two-time All-Star and World Series champion. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011. Currently, he is the color commentator for the Minnesota Twins on Fox Sports North.

Bert Blyleven
Bert Blyleven
Blyleven in 2008
Born: April 6, 1951 (age 68)
Zeist, Netherlands
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
June 5, 1970, for the Minnesota Twins
Last MLB appearance
October 4, 1992, for the California Angels
MLB statistics
Win–loss record287–250
Earned run average3.31
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Vote79.7% (14th ballot)

Early life

Blyleven was born in the Netherlands but was raised in Garden Grove, California where he attended Santiago High School. His father moved the family to Melville, Saskatchewan when Blyleven was two years old,[1] and he then moved his family to Southern California when Blyleven was five years old. He became interested in baseball as a young boy watching Sandy Koufax pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers and listening to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett announce the Dodgers' radio broadcasts. Blyleven was quoted as saying, "My dad built me a mound in the backyard with a canvas backdrop over our horseshoe pits, and I would go back there and just throw and throw and throw until I developed it, and it became my curveball. And I could throw it over at any time, any count." [2]


Blyleven starred on the Santiago High School baseball team, also running cross country to build up his stamina and leg strength. He was drafted straight out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in the third round in 1969 after just 21 minor league starts, he found himself called up to the Majors at age 19 on June 2, 1970. In his first season, his sharp curveball helped him to ten victories, and he was named AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News. In 1973, he pitched 9 shutouts, the most shutouts of any AL pitcher that season.

However, Blyleven's early career with the Twins was not always pleasant as he was hounded by critics and fans.[3] Unhappy with his salary there, Blyleven was traded (along with teammate Danny Thompson) to the Texas Rangers in a six-player deal on June 1, 1976.[4] He pitched well with the Rangers, posting a 2.76 ERA. On September 22, 1977, just two weeks after being sidelined with a groin injury, Blyleven no-hit the California Angels 6–0 at Anaheim Stadium. His 2.74 career ERA with the Rangers remains the best in team history.[5]

Following an incident in which Blyleven blatantly gave the finger to a television camera obviously focused on him during one of the Rangers' rare nationally broadcast games,[6] Blyleven was again traded on December 8, 1977 to the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of the first four-team trade in Major League Baseball history. Blyleven's no-hitter was with his final start as a Ranger; not until Cole Hamels during the 2015 season would a pitcher be traded after pitching a no-hitter in his final start for the team that traded him. With the Pirates, he led the team in ERA, strikeouts, and complete games in 1978, and he helped them to a World Series victory in 1979. His 20 no decisions in 1979 are the most by an MLB starting pitcher in a season, dating back to at least 1908.[7]

Bert Blyleven 1987
Blyleven in 1987

Blyleven became disgruntled with the Pirates and threatened to retire during the 1980 season if he was not traded.[8] The Pirates traded him to the Cleveland Indians on December 9, 1980. Blyleven sat out most of the 1982 season with an elbow injury and struggled again in 1983, but he came back in 1984 with one of his best seasons: a 19–7 record with a 2.87 ERA. He missed a second 20-win season that year when he was forced to miss a couple of starts after breaking his foot when joking around in the bullpen. In 1985 he again led the American League in shutouts with 5. That year, he pitched 293 ⅔ innings and completed 24 games, a feat never repeated. (Only two pitchers have completed even ten games in a season since 2000.)[9] Blyleven was unhappy playing for the lackluster Indians and forced a trade back to the Twins,[10] where he passed the 3,000-strikeout mark and helped the Twins to a 1987 World Series victory.

Blyleven's first two full seasons back with the Twins produced major league records for home runs allowed in a single season (50) and in back-to-back seasons (96). He never surrendered more than 24 home runs in any year before, and after the 1986–87 campaigns, he averaged 21 allowed homers per season over the course of his career.

Blyleven went to the California Angels in 1989 and pitched a 2.73 ERA for a 17–5 record in his first season; he led the league for his third and final time in shutouts (5). Blyleven missed the entire 1991 season following rotator cuff surgery. He came back in 1992 but was mostly unproductive, going 8–12 with a 4.74 ERA. He retired following that season with a career 287–250 record with 3,701 strikeouts and a 3.31 ERA. (Only 16 other pitchers have at least 3,000 career strikeouts.) He tried out for the Twins again in the spring of 1993, but he did not make the squad, which made his retirement official. He pitched for the MLB All-Stars in the 1993 World Port Tournament in Rotterdam.[11]

MLB Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson said of Blyleven: "…[his curveball] was nasty, I'll tell you that. Enough to make your knees buckle. Bert was a terrific pitcher—a dominating pitcher."[12]

Blyleven was a pitching coach for the Netherlands in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.[13]


Bert Blyleven's number 28 was retired by the Minnesota Twins in 2011.

After his first year of Baseball Hall of Fame eligibility in 1998, Blyleven was widely considered to be the best eligible pitcher not yet enshrined. According to Matt Welch of Reason Magazine, "…there had long been a strong case that the Dutch-born curveballista was the most deserving player on the outside of Cooperstown looking in."[14] Still, it was not until his 14th year of eligibility, in 2011, that he was elected; he received 79.7% of the vote. He currently ranks 5th all-time in strikeouts, 9th all-time in shutouts, and 27th all-time in wins. At the time of his election, he was the only eligible member of the 3,000 strikeout club and the only pitcher with 50 or more shutouts not in the Hall of Fame.

Blyleven received only 17.55% of the vote for Hall of Fame admission in 1998 (his first year of eligibility), and his vote total dropped to 14.1% the following year. No player who had debuted on the ballot since 1970 had a vote total that low and later won election to the Hall. However, columnist Jayson Stark said, "No player has ever—and again, that word is 'ever'—had his Hall of Fame candidacy helped more by the sabermetrics boom than Blyleven."[15] Specifically, according to Welch, "the president and chief investment officer of Lederer & Associates Investment Counsel in Long Beach, California, a guy by the name of Rich Lederer, began spending some of his off-hours writing analysis on the Interwebs about Blyleven's overlooked case."[14]

Bert Blyleven 2011
Blyleven in March 2011.

By 2006, this total had increased to 53.33%. In 2007, Blyleven's total dipped to 47.7% (75% is the minimum required for admission to the Hall). In 2008, he received 336 votes, or 61.9% of the vote.[16] In 2009, he gained only two votes, for a total of 338, 62.7%. In 2010, Blyleven had 74.2% of the votes, missing admission to the Hall of Fame by only 5 votes (0.8%).[17]

Blyleven was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2011 after receiving 79.7% of the vote on his 14th attempt.[18] "It's been 14 years of praying and waiting," he said on a conference call from Fort Myers, Florida. "I thank the baseball writers of America for, I'm going to say, finally getting it right."[19] Blyleven was the first Dutch-born player inducted, and his Hall of Fame plaque depicts him with a Minnesota Twins cap.

Blyleven was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame in 2002[20] and was chosen to the fan-elected "Wendy's- Minnesota Twins All-Metrodome Team" on July 28, 2009. On July 16, 2011, the Minnesota Twins formally retired Blyleven's number.[21]

Commentating career

In 1996, Blyleven became a color commentator for the Twins. Blyleven's commentary is occasionally risqué for a baseball broadcast but provides interesting and friendly conversation between him and play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer. One of his trademarks is circling fans with the telestrator on screen. Fans—both at home and at road games—carry signs to the games saying "Circle me Bert." This has led to a fundraising campaign with the Parkinson's Foundation and a sponsorship with the Minnesota Lottery.

When announcing partner Bremer attempted to circle fans with the telestrator, he drew geometric forms that were non-circular, and Blyleven and fans started to jostle Bremer with phrases like "Rhombus me, Dick" or "Triangle me, Dick."[22]

Personal life

He currently resides in Fort Myers, Florida.

Blyleven appeared as himself in the 1990 James Belushi film Taking Care of Business.[23] During a 2006 broadcast, Blyleven forgot the name of the movie and had to be reminded of it by a technician in the broadcast booth.

Blyleven was one of baseball's most notorious dugout pranksters during his playing days. He earned the moniker "Frying Dutchman" by frequently setting fire to his teammates' shoelaces, a practical joke known as a "hot-foot." During his time with the Angels, the fire extinguisher in the team's clubhouse at Angel Stadium read: "In case of Blyleven: Pull."

Blyleven did not know his correct name until he was about to get married. He had thought all his life his given name was "Rikaalbert." He learned that his name actually was Rik Aalbert Blijleven after obtaining a copy of his birth certificate in order to get married.[24]

Career statistics

287 250 .534 3.31 692 685 242 60 0 4970 4632 1830 2029 430 1322 3701 114 155

See also


  1. ^ Berkow, Ira (October 18, 1987). "Sports of The Times; Blyleven And His Beard". New York Times.
  2. ^ -NY Times article – Alomar and Blyleven elected to hall of fame, 1/5/11
  3. ^ Bertie's fans get one-fingered farewell, Miami News, June 1, 1976
  4. ^ Kallestad, Brent (June 2, 1976). "Blyleven traded to Texas in six-player transaction". Lewiston Daily Sun. Maine. Associated Press. p. 20.
  5. ^ Historical Player Stats: Texas Rangers
  6. ^ Former Indians Blyleven, Alomar Elected to Hall of Fame, by Robert Gonzalez, at
  7. ^ "From 1908 to 2018, Recorded no decision, as Starter, sorted by greatest number of games in a single season matching the selected criteria". Baseball Reference. Retrieved July 14, 2018.
  8. ^ Blyleven Walks Out, Wants Trade Pittsburg Post-Gazette, May 1, 1980
  9. ^ Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven elected LA Times accessed 1/5/2011
  10. ^ Kiley, Mike (June 2, 1985). "Indians' Blyleven The Subject Of Angel Trade Talks". Chicago Tribune.
  11. ^ 1993 World Port Tournament,
  12. ^ Bert Blyleven Quotes
  13. ^ Steve Ginsburg (2009-01-29). "Ponson to play for Netherlands in World Classic". Reuters. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
  14. ^ a b Welch, Matt (2011-01-05) How a Part-Time Blogger Changed the Face of Baseball's Hall of Fame, Reason
  15. ^ Stark, Jayson (December 31, 2010). "Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar so close". Retrieved January 5, 2011.
  16. ^ The Official Site of Major League Baseball: News: Major League Baseball News
  17. ^ "Henderson, Rice elected to Hall of Fame". National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Archived from the original on January 23, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  18. ^ Blyleven Gets the Call From Cooperstown Archived January 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Star Tribune accessed 1/5/2011
  19. ^ Tyler Kepner,Alomar and Blyleven elected to Hall of Fame, New York Times, 1/5/11
  20. ^ Gallery – Blyleven inducted into Twins Hall of Fame Archived January 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Twins to immortalize Blyleven by retiring No. 28
  22. ^
  23. ^ Taking Care of Business (1990)
  24. ^ Source: book Baseball—a Laughing Matter, by Warner Fusselle, Rick Wolff and Brian Zevnik of The Sporting News (1987)

External links

Preceded by
Dennis Eckersley
No-hitter pitcher
September 22, 1977
Succeeded by
Bob Forsch
1969 Major League Baseball draft

The 1969 Major League Baseball (MLB) draft took place prior to the 1969 MLB season. The draft featured future Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven (pick 55) and Dave Winfield (pick 882).

1971 Minnesota Twins season

The 1971 Minnesota Twins finished 74–86, fifth in the American League West. 940,858 fans attended Twins games, the fifth-highest total in the American League, the first time the Twins failed to attract over one million fans since moving to Minnesota.

1972 Minnesota Twins season

The 1972 Minnesota Twins finished 77–77, third in the American League West.

1973 Minnesota Twins season

The 1973 Minnesota Twins finished 81–81, third in the American League West.

1974 Minnesota Twins season

The 1974 Minnesota Twins finished 82–80, third in the American League West.

1975 Minnesota Twins season

The 1975 Minnesota Twins finished 76–83, fourth in the American League West.

1976 Texas Rangers season

The 1976 Texas Rangers season involved the Rangers finishing 4th in the American League West with a record of 76 wins and 86 losses.

1981 Cleveland Indians season

The 1981 Major League Baseball regular season started Saturday, April 11, and ended Monday, October 5. Managed by Dave Garcia, the Indians had 52 wins and 51 losses, giving them a winning percentage of .505. The Indians finished sixth in the American League East. Home games were played at Cleveland Stadium.

1985 Minnesota Twins season

The 1985 Minnesota Twins finished with a record of 77-85, tied for fourth in the American League West, and 14 games behind the division winner and eventual World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

1986 Minnesota Twins season

The 1986 Minnesota Twins finished at 71-91, sixth in the AL West, 21 games behind the eventual AL runner-up California Angels. 1,255,453 fans attended Twins games, the second lowest total in the American League. Pitcher Bert Blyleven made a prediction on Fan Appreciation Day on October 3, saying that if the team came together as a unit and signed some other good players, they could potentially bring a World Series championship to Minnesota. That prediction proved accurate the next year.

1989 California Angels season

The 1989 California Angels season saw the Angels finish third in the American League West with a record of 91 wins and 71 losses.

3,000 strikeout club

In Major League Baseball (MLB), the 3,000 strikeout club is the group of pitchers who have struck out 3,000 or more batters in their careers. Walter Johnson was the first to reach 3,000, doing so in 1923, and was the only pitcher at this milestone for 50 years until Bob Gibson recorded his 3,000th strikeout in 1974. In total, 17 pitchers have reached 3,000 strikeouts, with CC Sabathia, the most recent club member, joining on April 30, 2019. Sabathia joins Steve Carlton and Randy Johnson as the only left-handed pitchers in this group. Randy was the quickest pitcher to 3,000 strikeouts, taking fewer games pitched or innings pitched than any other pitcher. César Gerónimo is the only player struck out by two different pitchers for their 3,000th strikeout, first by Gibson in 1974 and then Nolan Ryan in 1980. The Minnesota Twins were the first of three franchises to see multiple pitchers record their 3,000th strikeout on their roster, first Walter Johnson (while the franchise was called the Washington Senators) in 1923 and then Bert Blyleven in 1986. The Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees are the others with Ferguson Jenkins and Greg Maddux for the Cubs, and Phil Niekro and Sabathia for the Yankees. Ten 3,000 strikeout pitchers are also members of the 300 win club. Seven pitchers from this club were named amongst the one hundred greatest players in MLB history as part of the All-Century Team, four of whom were eventually voted as starters for the team by fan vote.Membership in the 3,000 strikeout club is often described as a guarantee of eventual entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martínez, and John Smoltz are the most recently elected individuals, all voted in during 2015 balloting. Of the sixteen eligible members of the 3,000 strikeout club, fourteen have been elected to the Hall. The two who have appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot but have not yet been elected, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling, both made their first appearances on the ballot for the 2013 elections. Each received only about half of the total votes needed for induction, with Schilling earning slightly more votes than Clemens. Clemens' future election is seen as uncertain because of his alleged links to use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). The current and near-future eligibility of many players linked to PED use, combined with voting restrictions in Hall of Fame balloting, has been cited as the source of a "backlog" in future Hall elections. Eligibility requires that a player has "been retired five seasons" or deceased for at least 6 months.

Bob Owchinko

Robert Dennis Owchinko (born January 1, 1955) is a former professional baseball pitcher. A left-handed pitcher, he played all or part of ten seasons in Major League Baseball, between 1976 and 1986, for the San Diego Padres, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, and Montreal Expos.

Owchinko attended Eastern Michigan University, from where he was picked in the first round (5th overall) by Peter Bavasi for the San Diego Padres in 1976. Over his career, he worked extensively as both a starter and in relief. In 1978, he won a career high 10 games with the San Diego Padres,along with posting career low earned run average of 3.56. In 1979, he appeared in a career high 42 games. On December 9, 1980, he was included in a six player trade for Bert Blyleven and Manny Sanguillen.

Dick Bremer

Richard James Bremer (born March 1, 1956) is a sports broadcaster for Fox Sports North. He has been the lead television announcer for the Minnesota Twins since 1983. He has also called Minnesota Golden Gophers men's basketball and Minnesota Golden Gophers football and hockey. He previously called Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball and Minnesota North Stars games during his tenure. He partners up with, for home games, Bert Blyleven, and for road games, works with Jack Morris, Roy Smalley III, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, or LaTroy Hawkins for the Minnesota Twins television broadcasts.

Hot foot

The hot foot is a prank where the prankster sets the victim's shoe laces or shoe on fire with a match or lighter.There are several other versions of the hot foot prank, but all involve using a source of flame near a victim's foot. Other versions of the prank involve using a cigarette on the victim's heel, placing a lit match between two bare toes on the victim, or sticking a book of matches to the victim's shoe with gum and lighting the matches.

The hot foot prank is mentioned in several baseball stories as a prank that players play on one another. Bert Blyleven earned the nickname "Frying Dutchman" because of his love of this prank; during Blyleven's time with the Angels, the fire extinguisher in the Angel Stadium clubhouse featured a sign that said "In case of Blyleven: Pull."

List of Minnesota Twins Opening Day starting pitchers

The Minnesota Twins are a Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They play in the American League Central division. They formerly played in Washington, D.C. as the Washington Senators before moving to Minnesota after the 1960 season. The first game of the new baseball season for a team is played on Opening Day, and being named the Opening Day starter is an honor, which is often given to the player who is expected to lead the pitching staff that season, though there are various strategic reasons why a team's best pitcher might not start on Opening Day. The Twins have used 26 different Opening Day starting pitchers in their 51 seasons in Minnesota. Starters have a combined Opening Day record of 14 wins, 25 losses and 12 no decisions. No decisions are only awarded to the starting pitcher if the game is won or lost after the starting pitcher has left the game.Brad Radke holds the Minnesota Twins record for most Opening Day starts with nine. He has a record in Opening Day starts for the Twins of four wins and two losses (4–2) with three no decisions. Bert Blyleven had six Opening Day starts for the Twins and Frank Viola had four. Radke has the record for most wins in Minnesota Twins Opening Day starts with four. Liván Hernández, Mudcat Grant, and Dean Chance share the best winning percentage in Opening Day starts with one win and no losses (1–0) each. Kevin Tapani has the worst winning percentage, losing both Opening Day starts he made for the Twins (0–2).Overall, Minnesota Twins Opening Day starting pitchers have a record of 4–7 with three no decisions at Metropolitan Stadium and a 1–4 record with one no decision at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Their first home opener in their current ballpark of Target Field was in 2013. This gives their Opening Day starting pitchers' combined home record 5–11 with four no no decisions. Their away record is 9–14 with eight no decisions. The Twins went on to play in the World Series in 1965, 1987, and 1991, winning in 1987 and 1991. The Twins lost both Opening Day games in the years in which they won the World Series.

List of Minnesota Twins broadcasters

The Minnesota Twins baseball team have had many broadcasters in their history in Minnesota. Here is a list of the people who have been a part of bringing the Twins to the people of Minnesota.

List of Minnesota Twins team records

This is a listing of statistical records and milestone achievements of the Minnesota Twins franchise.

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