Bert Blyleven was and still is the only native Dutchman to have made a successful career, as measured by quality of play, in American professional baseball. He made his debut on June 5, 1970 playing for the Minnesota Twins as a pitcher. He would continue to play for six different teams for the next 22 years, retiring at the start of the 1993 season because he, then at the age of 42, could not make the team.
Blyleven played for the Minnesota Twins from 1970 to 1976, for the Texas Rangers from 1976 to 1977, for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1978 to 1980, for the Cleveland Indians from 1981 to 1985, for the Minnesota Twins again from 1985 to 1988, and for the California Angels from 1989 to 1992.
Blyleven had a non-losing record for every team he played for when he was the pitcher. His win-loss percentage was 0.519 for the Minnesota Twins, 0.500 for the Texas Rangers, 0.548 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, 0.565 for the Cleveland Indians, and 0.579 for the California Angels.
Blyleven pitched a no-hit game, an extraordinary accomplishment, playing for the Texas Rangers against the California Angels on September 9, 1977. The final score was 6-0. He played in two World Series winners, for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979, and for the Minnesota Twins in 1987.
Blyleven frustrated batters with his easy delivery and nasty curve ball. He attributed his successful curve ball to his long fingers which could vary the trajectory of a baseball on his command. Even the best hitters in the league at the time, such as Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson and Rod Carew considered Blyleven's curve ball the toughest they ever faced.
Although his maximum number of wins in a season only numbered twenty in 1973 as a young pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, he managed to post his 200th win on June 14, 1985 playing for the Minnesota Twins against the Oakland Athletics. A year later, on August 1, 1986, he had his 3000th strike out, again against the Oakland Athletics. He was elected to the All-Star Team in1973 and again in 1985.
Blyleven, following his retirement, felt he should be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was supported in this by many other baseball followers. But the road to that Hall is usually slow, long and treacherous. In 1998, his first year of eligibility he only got 83 votes [17.5%]. But since then each year has produced an increasing number of votes, which in 2006 had reached 277 votes [53.3%]. Since he needs 75% of the vote, his eventual election to the Hall of Fame seems reasonably secure. By all measures, Blyleven belongs in the Hall of Fame. Since 1900, he ranks fifth in career strike outs, eighth in shutouts, and seventeenth in wins. According to some baseball writers, Blyleven is not only qualified, he is overqualified for entrance into the Hall of Fame.
Blijleven's quest to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame proved to be successful in 2010. He was chosen to enter the hallowed Baseball Hall of Fame, and was able to garner the required number of votes, in excess of 75 percent. His supporters were elated, because it was genuinely felt that he deserved to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bert Blyleven was born in Zeist, The Netherlands on April 6, 1951. His birth name was Rik Aalbert[Bert]. He emigrated to Garden Grove, California with his parents as a child. His parents are Johannes C. and Janny Blyleven. His father became a sports reporter for the Long Beach Press, the Herald Examiner, Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times covering the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1958 to 1968. So as a youngster Blyleven received a lot of exposure to professional baseball through his father's involvement in the sport.
Blyleven went to Santiago High School in Garden Grove, California. He was drafted out of High School by the Minnesota Twins in June 1969. He was drafted 55th overall in the third round. One year later he would debut as a Minnesota Twins pitcher.
Blyleven is married to his wife Gayle. They have four children and two stepchildren. During the baseball season he is a color analyst for the Minnesota Twins and in the off- season the family resides in Fort Meyers, Florida where Bert enjoys his every other day golf game.
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