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Bert’s big day awaits

  • Blog Post by: Jim Souhan
  • July 23, 2011 - 5:25 PM

Bert Blyleven showed up late to the Hall of Famers’ press conference on Saturday.

No, it wasn’t a protest after taking 14 years to be voted in. Blyleven’s round of golf went long, so he belatedly joined Pat Gillick and Roberto Alomar on stage.

Asked a few questions about the weekend, Blyleven admitted that he was still steamed that ``I missed that five-foot putt on 18.’’

The Star Tribune baseball writers have covered just about every angle of Bert’s career and induction over the last week.

In this post, I’ll offer a few moments and memories that didn’t fit neatly into my columns, including Jerry Terrell’s favorite Bert prank, which caused Rod Carew to chase him into the clubhouse.

-Blyleven on anticipation of the induction ceremony, on Sunday: ``It’s kind of like you get ready for a start. You anticipate it for three days, but when that day comes, and you have to get up in front of how many thousands of peple and make a fool of yourself...well, I’ve done that before.’’

And there’s this: ``I’ll try not to say the F word.’’

-Blyleven’s curve definedhim. Who has the best curve in the game today? ``Adam Wainwright,’’ Blyleven said of the Cardinals’ starter.

-A writer working on a history of the curve asked what Bert’s favorite nickname for the pitch is - Yakker, Uncle Charlie, the Deuce?

Blyleven looked at him and said, ``Curveball.’’

-On becoming the first Major League, modern-era, starting pitcher to enter the Hall since Nolan Ryan in 1999:

``I think in the new era that we’re in, with computers...and all that stuff, there’s so much more research out there,’’ Blyleven said. ``I think when Zack Greinke won (the Cy Young) a couple of years ago not having the most wins, and last year Felix Hernandez not having the most wins and C.C. Sabathia having 21, it’s changed.

``Writers are seeing that wins are hard to come by and it’s out of your control at times.’’

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Jerry Terrell, the former Twin who played infield behind Blyleven during Bert’s first stint with the Twins, remembers this as his favorite Blyleven prank:

``This was one of those times when I think Bert said he overstepped his bounds.

``Rod Carew was very superstitious. He was playing first base at the time. At the end of an inning, he would come in and put his mitt, with his Beechnut, on the top step of the dugout. Every time.

``Every time he went out to the field, he’d put a new Beechnut in his mouth. He’d never look, he’d just put a new chew in.

``Bert came out before the game and had this little Dixie cup thing, and he had one of those grins going. I told Steve Braun, Bert’s up to something.

``So Rod comes in and was going to lead the inning off. When he went to get his bat and go to the on-deck circle, Bert got the Beechnut pack out and opened the Dixie cup and there were six of the fattest night crawlers you’ve ever seen, wiggling all over.

``He puts them in the Beechnut pack and closes it and moves away.

``Rod gets a hit, as usual, and is on second when the inning ends, so someone brought him his glove. He’s standing at first, talking to the ump, and we’re all watching, and sure enough Rod takes that first bite and knows something is wrong.

``His eyes got big as saucers. He threw up behind first base. We’re laughing our heads off so he looks at us, and we point at bert.

``Rod went crazy. Bert was laughing his head off and he ran down the tunnel. Rod chased him to the clubhouse. In the meantime the ump came over and said `Where did Rod go?’ Gene Mauch, our manager, said, `He just went down the tunnel.

``Mauch told me, `Terrell, you’d better find him or I’ll fine you $500.’ I said, `Skip, I didn’t do anything.’ Skip said, `But if you can’t find him, then I have to put you in, and I don’t want to do that.’

``I think Bert went a little too far on that one.’’

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In summation, I know Bert’s candicacy has been debated for a long time.

I’ve always supported him and voted for him, and while I could list a number of reasons, the simplest for me is this:

When Blyleven retired, he ranked third all-time in strikeouts. Strikeouts, to me, are the pitching equivalent of home runs - acts of individual dominance that occur independent of the quality of the team surrounding the player, and the circumstances.

His victories, strikeouts, complete games and shutouts make a better argument for him than I ever could.

Congratulations, Bert. This is overdue and deserved.

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Upcoming: I'll still be in Cooperstown on Sunday to cover Bert's induction, and to conduct Sunday Morning Sports Talk. We'll start the Gardenhire Show at 9:30 a.m., followed by SMST with Tom Pelissero from 10-noon. We plan on speaking with Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder and a Twin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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