Sept. 29, 1986: Blyleven wins, but sets home run record

  • Article by: JOHN GILBERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 19, 2011 - 11:22 AM


Bert Blyleven and Jay Bell can be excused if they don't remember how
the Twins rallied in the eighth inning for two runs to beat the
Cleveland Indians 6-5 Monday night at the Metrodome.

It was a dramatic rally. Kirby Puckett and Gary Gaetti singled
and a sacrifice fly by Tom Brunansky scored Puckett and sent Gaetti
gambling to take second. Randy Bush, the second of three straight
pinch-hitters, then delivered a two-out single to score Gaetti with the
winning run.

But Bell, a 20-year-old infielder in his first major league
game for Cleveland, and Blyleven, the Twins' 35-year-old pitching ace,
had other things on their minds. This was the night Blyleven etched his
name into the major league record book, under the inglorious heading:
"Most home runs allowed by a pitcher, one season."

Blyleven came into the game tied with Robin Roberts, who set
the record at 46 30 years ago. The Indians hit three off him last
night, Nos. 47, 48 and 49.

Brett Butler's eighth-inning homer gave the Indians at 5-4
lead. Joe Carter's two- run homer had given them a 3-2 lead. But it was
Jay Bell, the 1984 first-round draft choice who the Twins traded to
Cleveland last year in a package deal for Blyleven that provided the
record-breaker with a home run in the third.

"Yeah, I thought about the record," Blyleven said. "Every
pitch. I go out there with the best stuff I've got and do the best I
can. If they hit it, they hit it."

Roberts, contacted by telephone at his Florida home, learned
that his record had been broken. "Is he winning the game?" Roberts
asked. Thanks to Mark Portugal's first save, Blyleven did. Roberts
added, "That's marvelous. Congratulate him for me."

Said Blyleven: "I hope I end up where he is." Florida is nice
this time of year, but presumably Blyleven meant the Hall of Fame.

Bell, called up from the Florida instructional league because
of several late-season injuries, was not only playing in his first
major league game, but it was the first major league game he had ever
seen. And he homered on the first pitch thrown to him.

It was the first time since Sept. 20, 1981, that any player
had homered on his first pitch in the majors. On that date, Gaetti
homered for the Twins. Bell's homer in his first at-bat was the 55th
such homer in major league history, the 27th in the American League.

"I was looking for a fast ball all the way," Bell said. "But I
think I was going to swing at the first pitch, whatever it was.

"I thought it was ironic I was playing the Twins in my first
game, and I was aware Blyleven was the reason I got traded to
Cleveland. But I didn't think of the significance of the home run.

"I was in Sarasota this morning," added Bell, who went to the
Instructional league after playing shortstop for Waterbury in the
Eastern League this season, where he hit .277 with seven homers. "I
heard I was coming up last night. Got in about 11:30 this morning, and
I found out I was playing about two hours before the game."

Bell played second base, and batted ninth in the lineup.
Blyleven buzzed through the first eight hitters, bringing up Bell with
two out in the third. At that point, the perfect game turned imperfect.

"It wasn't that bad a pitch," Blyleven said. "I got it up a
little, but when he hit it, I didn't think it was going out.

"No, there was no relief when the record got broken. I've
still got one more outing. I might shatter this record where nobody can
reach it."

He joked that the pitch to Bell was a "high knuckleball," but
really it was a fast ball. "Many hitters around the league have told me
that they sit on my fast ball," Blyleven said. "Out of 49 home runs off
me, probably four or five have been on breaking balls. The rest were
fast balls, or half-fast balls."

With such a dazzling curve ball, Blyleven knows he's got to
throw fast balls to set up the curves. "I'm basically a fly-ball
pitcher," he said. "In this park, the balls seem to fly farther."

Did he mean balls carry farther at the Metrodome?

"It seems like every park I pitch in the ball travels, this
year."

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