Bert Blyleven

Rik Aalbert "Bert" Blyleven (born April 6, 1951 in Zeist, Netherlands), is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played in the 1970s and 1980s, and was best known for his astounding curveball.

The Netherlands-born but Southern California-raised Blyleven became interested in baseball as a young boy watching Sandy Koufax pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Blyleven was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the third round in 1969 and after a brief stint in the minor leagues, he was called up by the Twins 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.

However, Blyleven's early career with the Twins was not always pleasant as he was hounded by critics and fans and suffered with a dismal Minnesota Twins team. Becoming more vocal, Blyleven was traded to the Texas Rangers on June 1, 1976. He pitched well with the Rangers, throwing a 2.76 ERA in his first season and throwing a no-hitter against the California Angels on September 22, 1977, just two weeks after being sidelined with a groin injury.

On December 8, 1977, Blyleven and John Milner were traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of the first four-team trade in Major League Baseball history. With the Pirates, he led the team in ERA, strikeouts and complete games in 1978 and helped them to a World Series victory in 1979.

However, Blyleven became disgruntled with the Pirates and threatened to retire during the 1980 season if he was not traded. Eventually, the Pirates did trade 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 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. Blyleven was unhappy playing for the lackluster Indians and forced a trade back to the Twins, where he passed the 3,000-strikeout mark and helped the Twins to a 1987 World Series victory.

Blyleven went to the California Angels in 1989 and pitched a 2.73 ERA for a 17-5 record in his first season, but he 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 (only thirteen other pitchers have at least 3,000 career strikeouts) and a 3.31 ERA. He tried out for the Twins again in the spring of 1993 but did not make the squad, making his retirement official.

Blyleven is often considered to be the best retired pitcher not yet in the Baseball Hall of Fame; his first year of eligibility was 1998 and if not elected, he will lose eligibility in 2012 (except by special election of the Veterans' Committee). His career stats compare equally or favorably to many pitchers currently in the Hall. It is likely, however, that he will make it to the hall of fame before 2012. While he received just 17.55% of the required 75% to make it to the Hall of Fame in 1998 (first year of eligiblity), by 2006 this total has jumped to 53.33% and will most likely (based on historical voting trends) continue to climb in years to come. He is also the only Hall of Fame eligible pitcher with at least 3000 strikeouts not yet in the Hall of Fame. Because of his long association with the club, it is believed that if elected to the Hall, Blyleven would enter as a Minnesota Twin.

In 1996, Blyleven became a color commentator for the Twins. In early 2002 during a quiet portion of a Twins game, he circled (on television) a fan carrying a sign in the stands of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and signs reading "Circle Me, Bert" (or variants thereupon) quickly became a popular phenomenon at the Metrodome, and has continued into the 2006 Season as a game by game tradition. His commentary is frequently risqué for a baseball broadcast, a fact which seems to cause play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer no small amount of discomfort.

Blyleven has been known to make off-color remarks during some Twins television broadcasts. Play-by-play announcer Dick Bremer frequently responds to these comments with stony silence or an awkward attempt to change the conversation.

* In April 2002, Minneapolis City Council member Joe Biernat was indicted for accepting free plumbing work on his house in exchange for lucrative city contracts. The day after the indictment was made public, City Council President Paul Ostrow was a guest in the Twins' broadcast booth, explaining a plan for a new Twins stadium. At the end of the interview, Blyleven asked Ostrow "So do you know any good plumbers?" After an uncomfortable pause, Ostrow replied "I'm not going there."

* During a 2006 broadcast, a conversation with a guest morphed from George Brett to singing in the shower. Blyleven mentioned that he had showered with Brett, and the guest expressed surprise. Blyleven exclaimed "Well, there were other guys there! ... Although they did say not to bend over."

* During the same broadcast, Blyleven asked guest Ace Young (of American Idol fame) if he "got lucky" with show host Paula Abdul.

* Later in the season, Blyleven and Bremer were discussing Pee Wee Herman when Blyleven remarked "I wouldn't want to be in a movie theater with him!"

* Bert was heard to crack the following joke during a telecast, "What do you do to an elephant with three balls? Walk him and pitch to the giraffe."

* On August 15, 2006, the Twins were facing the Cleveland Indians. Shin-Soo Choo pinch hit in the ninth inning. When Bremer said Choo's full name, Blyleven responded by saying "Bless you."

* During the pregame show on September 3, 2006, Blyleven twice used the word "fuck" while he was live on air after getting caught up in his words during commentary. Blyleven stopped his commentary and muttered "Ah, we're gonna do this fuckin' thing again, I just fucked that up." Upon being told by fellow broadcaster Anthony LaPanta (who was filling in for Dick Bremer) that they were actually broadcasting live, Blyleven said "We are? I didn't know that." In the first inning of the game, he apologized. Blyleven was originally suspended by the network for two telecasts but was then suspended three additional games. During his suspension, fans were occasionally spotted holding "Free Bert" signs at the Metrodome. Watch the video of Bert Blyleven's on-air mishap.

* Later in the same broadcast, the Twins were facing New York Yankees reliever Mike Myers. Blyleven introduced Myers and commented on his unorthodox submarine delivery by saying: "Myers at six-foot-three, but he throws like a midget."

* On September 30, 2006, During the 6th inning versus the Chicago White Sox, when Bert responded to Dick Bremer's question of what subject he would have taught if he would have become a teacher Bert said "I would have taught math, that's pretty much all I knew, well either that or sex-ed."

Circle Me, Bert is a popular sign raised by fans of the Minnesota Twins. Fans hope that broadcaster Bert Blyleven will spot their sign and circle them on television with his telestrator.

Use of Bert's "Circle Machine" is an honor rarely extended to his broadcast partner Dick Bremer. Blyleven did allow Bremer to use the telestrator on August 5th, 2006. "For heaven's sake, let me circle my daughter," Dick pleaded. Blyleven then permitted Bremer to circle his daughter, who was in the crowd at the Kansas City Royals' Kauffman Stadium. Again, on August 16, 2006, Blyleven permitted Bremer to use the Circle Machine but was less than thrilled when Bremer drew a peanut shape around a fan's head. Fans have responded to these sorts of incidents by creating new signs for Bremer involving other shapes, including "Triangle Me, Dick" and "Rhombus Me, Dick."

Starting in 2005, fans that are circled have a chance to win $100 in Minnesota State Lottery Tickets as part of the promotion called Winner's Circle.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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