Blyleven a character truly worthy of Hall

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2011 - 1:13 PM

The former Twin will have some interesting tales to tell during his Hall of Fame induction speech Sunday.

Bert Blyleven was inducted into the Twins' Hall of Fame Saturday and next Sunday the great righthander will get his long overdue recognition as one of the best to ever play the game when he is inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

When Blyleven gets up to make his 45-minute acceptance speech in Cooperstown, N.Y., the memory of his first day in the majors will be sure to be a part of the message he gives to family and friends, fellow Hall of Famers and a ton of just plain-old Bert fans.

He will be sure to mention how grateful he was when on June 2, 1970 his minor league manager, Ralph Rowe, of the Evansville's Tripletts, gave him a telegram.

"They didn't have the internet and all that stuff back then, so it was a telegram that said that I had to report to [Twins manager] Mr. Bill Rigney immediately at Fenway Park in Boston," recalled Blyleven. "By the time I got to Boston it was about 2:30 in the morning and I kept looking at the telegram and it said, 'Report to Mr. Rigney immediately.'

"I went to the front desk and asked what his room was where he was staying and they gave me his room number. I banged on his door at probably about a quarter to three and I think I woke him up. He finally came to the door and I told him, he knew who I was, and he said, 'Have you checked in yet?' I said, 'No sir, the telegram says to report to you immediately.' So I could see his brain start to think a little bit and he said, 'Hold on a second,' and he came back with a rooming list."

Blyleven recalled that the Twins had a curfew back then of two or three hours after the game when you had to be in your room.

"Mr. Rigney said that before you go down and check in, I want you to go to all your teammates' room and tell them that you're here," recalled Blyleven. "So at 3 o'clock here I am banging on doors and finally he said, 'And also before you check in, you come and talk to me and tell me how you did.'"

Well he reported to Rigney that he had a lot of upset players. For Rigney this was a way to get even with a bunch of Twins who weren't playing very well.

Pitches first game

Blyleven talked about the first major league game he pitched on June 5, 1970.

"The first batter I ever faced, Lee Maye, I got the count to three balls and two strikes and he hit a fastball over the right-field fence," said Blyleven. "I thought about my bubble gum card because Rigney came out after that and I thought for sure he was going to take me out, and I would have had an ERA of infinity and an 0-1 record.

"But we went on to win that ballgame 2-1. It's a game I will never forget. Ron Perranoski pitched the final two innings. I pitched seven innings gave up five hits, walked one, struck out seven in my major league debut. It was a pretty exciting time."

Blyleven finished that season with a 10-9 record and posted an impressive 3.18 ERA for a team that won the Western Division with a 98-64 record.

The team was swept in three games by Baltimore in the American League Championship Series. But Blyleven pitched well, in one relief appearance he threw two innings, striking out two while giving up no runs.

That was the start of a great pitching career that found him pitching for Texas, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, California and the Twins. And being a key starter for World Series winners Pittsburgh and Minnesota.

It took a long time for Blyleven to make it to the Hall of Fame despite having better statistics than a lot of pitchers who were nominated before him. Was he surprised it took that long?

"No not really," he said. "I think the percentages were increasing. It just takes some guys longer. I knew it wasn't a first time, second time, maybe third time Hall of Fame votegetter. But I was hoping that over the years my percentage would increase.

"I think the internet helped me a lot. I feel like a guy like Rich Lederer with baseballanalysts.com brought out my numbers. Probably with Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez winning Cy-Youngs when they didn't have the most wins. Wins are hard to come by. It's hard to win a ballgame. It's easy to lose but it's hard to win."

The public knows Blyleven as a great pitcher, but those who played with him or know him well, including myself, found out what it was to like to get hot foots, be wrestled to the ground or otherwise teased by him.

I was the guy who helped him and his first wife, Patty, get an apartment, introduced them to a friend name Leonard Savitt, who provided the furniture and helped with other things that an 18-year-old with a young bride coming to a new town couldn't get done easily.

Jottings

Twins President Dave St. Peter was talking about the difference Target Field has made financially for the club. The Twins used to accept $25 million in revenue sharing funds while playing at the Metrodome, and they are now paying in $10 million since they moved outdoors, a difference of $35 million.

The decision to have Joe Nathan become the closer instead of Matt Capps was made Friday night after he had allowed a game-winning home run. That night pitching coach Rick Anderson gave Nathan the news and he has responded, getting saves Saturday and Sunday.

Nathan has posted a sensational 0.96 ERA since he came off the disabled list June 25. And Glen Perkins has done even better, with a 0.90 ERA since that same date. When Nathan and Perkins have followed each other their combined ERA is 0.94

Drew Butera celebrated his mother's birthday here this week along with his dad, former Twins catcher Sal Butera. Drew hit a game-winning single against San Diego on June 19 when his mother was here and Friday night he hit a home run when both were here. Butera's batting average is only .185 But since June 1 he has outhit Joe Mauer in average .325 to .270 and in home runs 2-0.

If the Twins are going to repeat as division champions they will have to improve 12th-place ranking in the American League in runs scored, which is 24th overall.

The Gophers basketball team gained an unexpected walk-on for the coming season in Kendal Shell of Webster Groves, Mo. Shell's father Bill is a well-known officials in the St. Louis area and a friend of Tubby Smith.

Hollis Cavner says he has some great ones coming for his tournament at Blaine on Aug. 1-7, including 16 Hall of Famers, among them Tom Lehman, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Chi-Chi Rodriguez, Nick Price, Ben Crenshaw, and Bernhard Langer.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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