Name: Rik Albert (Bert) Blyleven
Nickname: The Dutchman
Position: Starting Pitcher
Years Played As an Angel: 1989-1992; 1995-1996
Angels’ Stats: 33-24, 3.92 ERA, 508.0 IPs, 270 Ks
Career Stats: 287-250, 3.31ERA, 4970.0 IPs, 3701Ks
How He Was Acquired: Traded to the Angels from the Minnesota Twins (along with Kevin Trudeau) for Mike Cook, Rob Wassenaar, and Paul Sorrento. Resigned as a free agent in 1992.
Why You Should Know Him: With the exception of Pete Rose, no other player in baseball has had his merits for the Hall of Fame debated more than Bert Blyleven. Possessing one of the most dominant curve balls in the game, he ranks in the Top-10 of numerous pitching categories including wins, strikeouts, shutouts, complete games, games started, 1-0 wins, innings pitched, etc. and nearly won his admission into the Hall of Fame in 2010 when he received 74.2% of the vote—falling just 5 votes short of admission.
Born in Holland, Bert Blyleven spent the majority of his childhood in the shadow of the Big-A. At the age of five, Bert’s family moved to Garden Grove where he became a standout pitcher for Santiago High School.
Drafted in the third round in 1969, Blyleven found himself starting in the Major Leagues by the middle of 1970 at age 19. He posted a 10-9 record that year and won the American League Rookie of the Year award.
Over the course of his 22 year major league career, Bert pitched for the Twins, Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels. He was an All-Star in 1973 and 1985. He helped the Pirates win the World Series in 1979 and the Twins win the World Series in 1987. As a starter, Bert liked to work fast and deep into games, for which ESPN announcer Chris Berman nicknamed him Bert “Be Home” Blyleven because everyone could by home by eleven on days that he started.
In 1988, after a poor season, in which Bert went 10-17 with a 5.43 ERA, he was traded to the California Angels. Bert quickly rebounded in 1989, going 17-5 with a 2.73 ERA at age 38. He led the American League in 1989 with five shutouts, and, over the course of the season became quite a streak buster for the Angels. Nine times during the 1989 season, Bert won a game after an Angels’ loss. He stopped losing streaks of five and seven games for the team. For all of those accomplishments, Bert won the Comeback Player of the Year award in 1989.
After a poor year in 1990, Bert missed all of the 1991 season with a rotator cuff injury. He resigned with the Angels as a free agent and went 8-12 with a 4.74 ERA. In so doing, he became one of only three Major League pitchers to win his first game before his 20th birthday and his last game after his 40th birthday.
Over the course of his career, Bert was a well-known character and comedian in the clubhouse. One of his favorite tricks was giving a player the “hot-foot” by setting his shoelaces on fire. For that, many of his teammates called him the “Frying Dutchman”. Bert was also known for numerous other practical jokes and always telling a good joke.
The case for Bert’s admission into the Hall of Fame has continued to gain steam. More analysts are recognizing the inequity of run support that Bert received over the course of his career and discounting the lack of recognition Bert received while playing. Using more sophisticated and modern analysis, Bert’s dominance becomes much more apparent in all categories except career wins. With closeness of the 2010 vote, hopefully, next year, Bert will be home by eleven in the Hall of Fame.
Memorable Moments/Games: On September 22, 1977, Bert Blyleven through a no-hitter against the Angels while pitching for the Texas Rangers.
Anecdotes and Quotes: Bert credits the success for his curveball to his unusually long fingers. He claims that his fingers grew to be so long from sticking them in the dikes in his homeland as a child.
Where is He Now?: Bert Blyleven is a color commentator for the Minnesota Twins. Fans often bring signs saying “Circle me Bert” in order to get him to circle them with his telestrator during his broadcasts. In 2009, Bert was the pitching coach for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. Bert presently lives in Fort Myers, FL, and has four children and two step-children. For more information on Bert, fans can view his website at www.bertblyleven.com
Contributed by David Saltzer - AngelsWin.com Senior Columnist