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
Cleveland «0020320007140
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:C.Kluber(17-9) L:A.Swarzak(3-2)
HR: CLE- None MIN- None


Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns 5
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
Philadelphia - LP: M. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
Calgary 1
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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