Blyleven visits Cooperstown, misses no-hitter

  • Updated: May 4, 2011 - 6:20 AM

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - Bert Blyleven made his preparatory stroll through the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, getting ready for his long-awaited induction this summer.

Blyleven wasn't in the broadcasting booth for Francisco Liriano's no-hitter. His place was taken by Ron Coomer.

"There's still disbelief," Blyleven said as he sat near where his plaque will hang in the Hall of Fame gallery. "I think once I come here [in July] and then all of a sudden I check into the Otesaga Hotel ... and Hall of Famers are already there, it'll be like, 'What the hell am I doing here?' It'll be exciting. I'm going to be in awe. I'm just glad I'm on this side of the grass."

This was the third trip to Cooperstown for the 60-year-old Blyleven, who won World Series titles with Pittsburgh (1979) and the Twins (1987). He will enter the Hall of Fame along with Pat Gillick and Roberto Alomar in July.

It didn't take long for Blyleven to feel at home in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. As soon as he sat down in the Grandstand Theater, the notorious prankster was in high gear.

"I gave up a home run over there," Blyleven said Tuesday as he stared at a wall of the theater, a replica of Chicago's old Comiskey Park. "The first time I pitched there I had a shutout going and Ed Herrmann hit a home run and the scoreboard went off. It scared the heck out of me. I liked it so much I gave up home runs (there) over the years just to make it go off."

Blyleven, the first player from Holland to be voted in, finally crossed the 75-percent threshold, receiving votes on 79.7 percent of the ballots. It was a long climb after receiving only 14.1 percent of the vote in 1999, his second year of eligibility. But his 60 shutouts and 3,701 strikeouts ultimately proved to be too great to ignore, despite a 287-250 record and a lack of a Cy Young Award that critics pointed to.

Blyleven, who signed with Minnesota in 1969, ranks first on the Twins' career list in complete games (141), shutouts (29) and strikeouts (2,035), and is second in wins (149) and innings pitched (2,566 2-3). He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1970 for Minnesota, and also played for Pittsburgh, Cleveland, California, and Texas in his 22 seasons.

The Twins will retire his No. 28 jersey when they hold Bert Blyleven Day a week before his induction. He'll be the sixth Twin with his number retired, joining Harmon Killebrew (No. 3), Rod Carew (No. 29), Tony Oliva (No. 6), Kent Hrbek (No. 14) and Kirby Puckett (No. 34).

True to his fun-loving character, Blyleven had an explanation for his long wait. Though the major league record book shows he never made it to 5,000 innings pitched, failed to reach the magical 300-win total and fell short of 4,000 strikeouts, he blamed the writers for an obvious oversight.

"They never (counted) Little League, high school, Pony League, (and American) Legion ball," he said. "They should have added all that together."

The self-effacing Blyleven, with his wife Gayle at his side, was full of questions at every turn.

"When did players first get paid?" he asked curator Eric Strohl as they looked at an exhibit with a baseball from a game in 1863 that ended with a score of 53-13. "That sounds like some of the games I pitched."

Moments later, Blyleven took one look at a photo of Eddie Gaedel and just shook his head. The 3-foot-7, 65-pound Gaedel, the only midget to bat in major league history, was part of a stunt by St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck in 1951 and walked on four pitches from Detroit's Bob Cain.

"He should have hit him," Blyleven said. "He could have saved three pitches."

Blyleven also marveled at the exploits of Hall of Fame pitchers Cy Young, Christie Mathewson and Walter Johnson. Young won 511 games and Johnson had 110 shutouts, both major league records that will never be surpassed.

"They had to pitch every other day," Blyleven said. "I always say I'd like to go back in a time capsule and see how the game was played back when Cy Young pitched, or Walter Johnson. Here you get a sense of that."

As amazing as Young and Johnson were, Blyleven also had a tendency to awe fans. He allowed a major league record 50 home runs in 1986 and 46 the next season — and he had an explanation for that, too.

"I looked at those two years, the cows were in better shape than they were ever before," he said. "The hide was thicker. I think the farmers were actually walking the cattle. That's why I gave up so many home runs. The hide was thicker."

Up in the library, Blyleven was shown pictures from his career and then waxed nostalgic as he peered at a scorecard from 1869.

"That's 5:45 p.m. It's almost dark," he said, noting the time the game ended. "I should have pitched then. I always pitched better at night with the lights out."

The tour ended with Blyleven walking through the gallery, stopping to gaze at the plaques of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Willie Stargell, Rod Carew, and tapping the top of former teammate Kirby Puckett's. Then he sat down not far from where his plaque will hang, a satisfied smile on his face.

"There's not a door near my plaque. My face is usually near a door so everybody exits, and it's not near a bathroom," he deadpanned one last time. "No, I'm looking forward to it. I'm very honored. It really hasn't hit home and it probably won't hit home for a while, probably maybe induction weekend when I mess up my speech and I realize I'm one of them."


  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
7:05 PM ET123456789RHE
MinnesotaK. Gibson (11-10)000
BaltimoreC. Tillman (11-5)000
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box


NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs 5 Top 9th Inning
St. Louis 1
Cincinnati 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Pittsburgh 3
Minnesota - K. Gibson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Philadelphia - J. Williams 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Miami - J. Cosart 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Boston - A. Webster 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cleveland - T. Bauer 6:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Detroit - K. Ryan 6:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt
Texas - R. Ross Jr. 6:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 6 3rd Qtr 15:00
Massachusetts 0
West Virginia 10 2nd Qtr 8:17
(2) Alabama 10
Rice 7 2nd Qtr 7:25
(17) Notre Dame 14
(10) South Dakota St 10 2nd Qtr 3:50
(24) Missouri 21
Fla Atlantic 7 2nd Qtr 8:12
(22) Nebraska 17
California 17 2nd Qtr 6:20
Northwestern 7
Marshall 21 2nd Qtr 8:03
Miami-Ohio 3
UC Davis 0 2nd Qtr 13:45
(11) Stanford 14
Arkansas 7 2nd Qtr 14:10
(6) Auburn 14
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 1st Half 5:00
Seattle 0
New England 4:00 PM
Toronto FC
Columbus 6:30 PM
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Chicago 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: How sure are you that the Twins are on the road to improving?

Weekly Question