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MLB Hall Of Fame: A Look At Bert Blyleven

On this, the day of his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, let's take a look at the life of Bert Blyleven.

Rik Aalbert Blijleven was born in Zeist, Netherlands on April 6, 1951. His family moved to Canada when he was just two years old, and then to Garden Grove, California when he was five. He was raised in Garden Grove, where he listened to Vin Scully on the Dodgers' radio broadcasts and pitched on a mound that his father had built in the family's backyard.

Strangely, it turns out that Blyleven did not know what his correct name was until he was about to get married. He thought that his name was "Rikaalbert" growing up. When he was about to get married, he got a hold of a copy of his birth certificate from the Netherlands and saw his name as Rik Aalbert Blijleven for the first time.

Blyleven was drafted straight out of Santiago High School by the Twins in 1969 draft, with Minnesota grabbing him in the third round. He made only 21 minor league starts before making his Major League debut with the Twins on June 2, 1970. He won ten games as a rookie and was named the Rookie Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News.

Bert Blyleven played for five different teams during his Major League Baseball career. As mentioned, he broke in with the Twins, and played for them until he was traded to the Texas Rangers in 1976. In December of 1977, the Rangers traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a part of the first four-team trade in the history of Major League Baseball. He went from the Pirates to the Cleveland Indians in a trade on December 9, 1980, and on August 1, 1985 was traded to the Twins again by the Indians. Minnesota traded Blyleven away again on November 3, 1988, shipping him to the California Angels, where he played his final seasons in the big leagues.

During his playing days, Blyleven took on the nickname "The Frying Dutchman" for his propensity to. . .well, set his teammates' feet on fire. More accurately, he set fire to their shoelaces, a move that was known as the "hot foot."

In 1996, Blyleven joined the Minnesota Twins broadcast team as a color commentator. In that capacity, he has certainly provided some. . .interesting. . .moments. (Warning: NSFW language in the following video clip.)


But what he has become most known for as a Twins' broadcaster is his "Circle Me Bert" feature, where he uses the telestrator to circle various fans that are sitting in the seats. Fans even carry signs to Target Field (and formerly to the Metrodome) imploring Bert to circle them. When Blyleven was suspended for the incident in the video clip above, fans actually carried "Free Bert" signs to the Dome instead.

Blyleven had been eligible for the Hall of Fame since 1998, but garnered just 17.55% of the vote in his first year of eligibility, and just 14.1% the next year. The latter represents the lowest vote total gained by anyone that was eventually elected to the Hall of Fame since 1970. When he did finally get a high enough percentage of the vote in 2011, picking up 79.7% (75% is needed for induction), ESPN.com baseball writer Jayson Stark declared that no player has ever been helped more by sabremetrics (advanced baseball stats) than Bert Blyleven.

Whatever the case may be, Bert Blyleven is finally a Hall of Famer, and he truly deserves the honor.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.