What a day it was for Bert Blyleven. The longtime pitcher for the Minnesota Twnis was enshrined in the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York on Sunday, and unsurprisingly, he delivered a speech full of humility, appreciation, and of course, humor. Here’s a partial transcription of Blyleven’s speech. You can read the transcription in its entirety here.
Today, being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I’m very proud to be the first born-Dutch man being inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s also a great honor to be inducted with Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick. Congratulations to you two and to your families. Congratulations. And Robby, don’t worry, a lot of people say English is my second language, too.
I’d like to thank all the hall of famers that came here today to make this a special weekend. I know that I’m a rookie, like I mentioned; I’m to be seen and not heard from, but I was never that way. I only wish that some of the hall of famers that had a huge impact on my career could have been here today. I know in my heart, though, that Harmon Killebrew, Willie Stargell, Bob Feller, Chuck Tanner and Kirby Puckett are looking down at all of us right now.
To my wife, Gayle, thank you for loving me and being my best friend. Baby, I love you. To my children, to my grandchildren, to my brothers and sisters, from my sister Joann, to my sister Betsy, to my sister Trudy, to my brother Joe, to my son Tim, to my son Todd, my son Kip, to my son David – you’d think I’d buy my wife some shoes – to my daughter Kim, and all our grandchildren and their loved ones. A special thank you to Whitney Selover for taking care of my family and friends. Whitney, with the Hall of Fame. We should give her a standing ovation right here. What she has done for us, unbelievable. Whitney, thank you. I know you’re back there somewhere.
We get out of life what we put into it. The same could be said about baseball. I was born in Zeist, Holland, in 1951. My parents decided to leave Holland in 1953 with three children, not a lot of money but a lot of determination. We first went to Canada, spent four years in Canada before we emigrated to the United States in 1957.
I was introduced to baseball by my friends and my dad. My dad became a huge baseball fan by listening to the radio with Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett who, of course, cover the L.A. Dodgers. I listened to the game with him all the time. My dad was a huge Frank Howard fan. He liked Howard because of his size and how far he could hit the ball. I used to keep score listening to the game, especially when Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale pitched. I loved putting down the “K” for a strikeout.
I started playing baseball when I was 9 years old. All I wanted to do was throw that baseball; ask my sisters or brothers. That’s all I’d do. I’d just want to play catch, and when they were done, when my dad would come home, I’d play catch with him. And if they didn’t want to play anymore, I’d find a block wall and throw that ball against it. I guess you can say I was kind of like Forrest Gump. He ran; I threw.
In Little League I started out as a catcher, and finally my coach Mr. Price noticed that I threw the ball back harder to him than he threw to me, so he asked me if I wanted to pitch, and I said sure, I’d try it. Once I started pitching, though, my dad told me I couldn’t throw a curveball until I was 13 or 14 years old. Why? Because he had listened to an interview with Vin Scully and Sandy Koufax. Sandy told Vin because of his elbow problems that if he ever had a son, he wouldn’t let him throw a curveball until he was about 13 or 14 years old.
Sandy, I don’t know if you remember that interview, but my dad did. Plus my dad straightened bumpers for a living and sometimes my head, so I listened.
Sandy, I also learned the curveball from you. Listening to Vin Scully describe your curveball, the drop, called back then, I always visualized the rotation of that baseball, and once I did get older and I developed it by finding the right grip on that baseball and utilizing the seams of the ball to make it spin and curve, so thank you, Sandy Koufax.