Back in June of 1969, a few months before Woodstock and right around the time I was graduating from high school, the Minnesota Twins selected Bert Albert Blyleven as their third round pick of the June draft.
Bert spent his 1969 season first at Rookie ball and then Orlando of the Florida State League, going 7-2, 2.09 over 69 innings, earning a promotion in 1970 to Double-A Evansville. There the 19-year old went 4-2, 2.50 over eight more starts and 54 more innings, and then just a year later, on June 5, 1970, the right hander made his Major League debut, and never looked back.
Bert tossed another 164 innings at Metropolitan Stadium that year, going 10-9, 3.18, striking out 135 and started a run of ten straight years over which he hit double digits in wins and twelve over which he threw more than 200 innings.
Over his career of 22 years, Blyleven played for five teams, the Twins, Rangers, Pittsburgh, Cleveland (then back to the Twins), finishing with the Angels from whom he retired on October 4, 1992 after 685 starts and 4970 innings. Striking out 3709, to 1322 walks and 4632 hits allowed (1.19 WHIP), Blyleven surely did have among the best, if not the best curve of his time.
I saw Bert pitch a few times, and his pitch surely did drop off the edge of the table in classic form, and his body of stats also bears basic totals of 287-250, 3.31.
After 13 seasons of increased voter percentage, starting with 17.5% in 1998 to 79.9% this year, the durable pitcher made it into the Hall of Fame, to which he will be inducted over the next week.
Hall of Fame voting is obviously strange, and one of the greatest sources of debate in human kind because, well, we all have our opinions.
For instance, I am not so hot with Andre Dawson being in the Hall, though I know he was a fine player. He was also 226 hits shy of 3000 and 62 short of 500 homers, both pretty good barometers. Not to mention his career on-base percentage was just .329, and that does not ring Hall to me.
I mean, Al Oliver and Vada Pinson and Steve Garvey and Bill Buckner all had just around the same amount of hits as Dawson, and, all had tremendous careers. I am also a supporter of both Dwight and Darrell Evans for that matter, if Dawson is Hall worthy (Dawson was elected in his ninth year of eligibility, by the way).
Well, as the criteria are vague for hitters, same with pitchers. For, I think Jack Morris and Tommy John and especially Jim Kaat all belong, just as I think Blyleven should have been voted in a lot sooner.
Bert was, like Morris and Kaat, a guy you wanted to give the ball to in a critical game.
He was cool. He was focused. And, Bert won.
Blyleven never did win a Cy Young, and he only won 20 games once, in 1973 when he went 20-17, 2.52, over 325 innings and 40 starts. And, during that one season he tossed nine shutouts. Yes, that is right. Nine in one year.
I am not sure exactly what one must do to prove himself Hall worthy, but that one 1973 season is the icing on the cake for me. Anyway, I am glad Bert was finally recognized appropriately for his stellar play, career, and contributions to baseball.
Since I get to be in the press box, I get to actually see Blyleven in the flesh from time to time, though I am pretty sure he does not really know me or who I am. And, with players like Bert, I always tell them how much I enjoyed watching them play. Bert was gracious when I told him that.
And, well, now I am looking forward to the next Twins series in Oakland so I can congratulate him accordingly.