Blyleven back in Hall of Fame spotlight
Grass-roots campaign under way in support of former pitcher
MINNEAPOLIS -- Former pitcher Bert Blyleven has a long list of accomplishments from his 22-year career in the Majors.But there is still one honor that is noticeably missing from his resume. Blyleven is in his 10th year on the Hall of Fame ballot. His highest vote total was 53.3 percent in 2006. A candidate must get 75 percent of the vote to gain election. Results of the 2007 Hall of Fame election, voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America, will be announced on Jan. 9, and the induction ceremony will take place on July 29 in Cooperstown. There are many people who have wondered why Blyleven has yet to receive enshrinement in Cooperstown. In a career that spanned from 1970-92 with the Twins, Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels, he's in the top end of almost every all-time pitching category. That includes 287 wins, which is 25th on the all-time list. He is fifth in career strikeouts with 3,701. He is ninth in games started with 685. His 60 shutouts are also ninth all-time. Blyleven also ranks in the top 20 in games pitched, the top 20 in shutouts, and he is 13th all-time in innings pitched with 4,970. The pitcher wasn't just known for his ability to produce solidly on the mound, but he had success in the postseason as well. There were several high points for Blyleven during his team's postseason runs, including World Series titles with Pittsburgh in 1979 and Minnesota in 1987, and an overall 5-1 postseason record with a 2.47 ERA. He boasts a 1977 no-hitter for the Rangers, a 20-win season with the Twins in 1973 and All-Star Game appearances in 1973 and 1985.
"He was as good as there was for a long time," Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett said. "Bert is up there with the toughest four or five guys I faced in my career."Still, Blyleven lacks the benchmark achievements like 300 victories or a Cy Young Award that often equal an induction into the Hall. He also had only two All-Star Game invites. Another issue that seems to have plagued Blyleven is a lack of visibility during his career. He pitched for many mediocre clubs and never played for any high-profile or large-market teams. But there are plenty of those that believe Blyleven's efforts during his career are worthy of an induction. A Twin Cities marketing firm has launched a campaign to promote Blyleven and try to increase his vote totals. A Web site called Bertbelongs.com was created. It does some of the homework for the voters, especially for those in the younger generation who did not get to see the right-handed curveball artist pitch.
The pitcher and current Twins television analyst appreciates the grass-roots support."It's nice, because they compare my numbers with the current Hall of Famers and see how I rank," Blyleven said. Even in negative categories, Blyleven is part of some elite company. He ranks seventh all-time in most home runs allowed, with 430. Every pitcher ahead of him, except Frank Tanana, has earned induction into the Hall of Fame. Blyleven also holds the single-season record for home runs allowed (50 in 1986). Blyleven has seen his percentage of votes increase nearly every year on the ballot, a sign he views as a positive. The knowledge that other players have seen their long waits awarded like Bruce Sutter did in 2006 also makes Blyleven optimistic about his chances. "Hopefully, I'll get in one day," Blyleven said. "Good things can come to those who wait, just like they did for Bruce."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.