Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1976 Topps #235 - Bert Blyleven

  • Bert Blyleven had a long career (1970-1992) for several teams. He is currently the most hotly debated Hall of Fame candidate. Bert had a lifetime record of 287-250 with a 3.31 ERA. He struck out 3701 batters (5th all-time) and struck out over 200 batters eight times in his career. Blyleven has a 5-1 lifetime record with a 2.47 ERA in postseason play. In his baseball reference similaritiy scores, the only players in the top ten who aren't in the Hall of Fame are Jim Kaat and Tommy John.
  • Blyleven was drafted in 1968 by the Minnesota Twins. He pitched in the minors in 1969 and in the first part of the 1970 seasons. Bert showed he was ready for the majors in 1970 when he started the season 4-2 with a 2.50 ERA for AAA Evansville. He made his debut as a 19-year-old on June 5, 1970. Bert was 10-9 with a 3.18 ERA in 25 starts for the AL West Champion Twins and was named Sporting News Rookie Pitcher of the Year.
  • Bert was a workhorse for the Twins from 1971-1975. He started at least 35 games a year in each of those seasons and his lowest number of innings pitched during that time was 275.2. His highest ERA during that span was 3.00 in 1975. Blyleven experienced some criticism from Twins fans during that time in part because his records were usually around .500. He had records of 16-15 (1971), 17-17 (1972), 20-17 (1973), 17-17 (1974), and 15-10 (1975). Here is a July 1971 Baseball Digest about Bert. Here is a February 1975 Baseball Digest article about Bert's early career. I remember reading this article when I was a young 'un and thinking Blyleven was baseball's best pitcher.
  • In 1976 Bert was traded to the Texas Rangers in a six-player deal. Blyleven was playing out his option and the Twins woudn't have been able to sign him. He pitched well for the Rangers, but was actually under .500 in 1976 (13-16 for both teams combined). Bert pitched a no-hitter against the California Angels on September 22, 1977. He was slowed by a groin injury during the '77 season and made "only" 30 starts (14-12, 2.72 ERA). During the season Blyleven flipped off a camera during a nationally telecast game, and he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1977 season. He was part of the first four-team trade in major league history.
  • In 1978 Blyleven came back to have a good season. He led the Pirates in several categories and was 14-10 with a 3.03 ERA in 34 starts. Bert helped the Pirates to the 1979 World Championship by going 12-5, although his ERA was an uncharacteristically high 3.60. He won game 3 of the National League Championship Series and game 5 of the World Series.
  • Bert slipped to 8-13 in 1980 and had his highest ERA to date (3.83). After the season he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. He pitched well for the Indians in the strike-shortened 1981 season. In 20 starts Bert was 11-7 with a 2.88 ERA. In 1982 Bert had an elbow injury and made only four starts. He struggled in 1983 (7-10, 3.91 ERA) but bounced back in 1984 to go 19-7 with a 2.87 ERA in 32 starts. He missed a few starts in 1984 after he broke his foot while joking around in the bullpen.
  • Blyleven started the 1985 season with the Indians but was traded back to the Twins in midseason. For both teams combined he was 17-16 with a 3.16 ERA and led the AL in complete games with 24. Are Bert Blyleven's Best Years Still Ahead? (March 1985 Baseball Digest article).In 1986 Bert set a record by allowing 50 home runs. He had a 17-14 record with a 4.01 ERA and also recorded his 3000th strikeout during the season. Here is a July 1986 Baseball Digest article about Bert's durability. Blyleven allowed 46 homers in 1987, went 15-12, and helped the Twins to a World Championship by winning two games in the ALCS and one game in the World Series.
  • Bert's last season with the Twins was 1988. He led the AL in losses and had his highest ERA. He ended up 10-17 with a 5.43 ERA. After the season Blyleven was traded to the California Angels. Bert had his last good season in 1989. He was 17-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 33 starts and led the AL with five shutouts. He was the AL Comeback Player of the Year. Here is a September 1989 Baseball Digest article about Bert throwing Father Time a curve. Blyleven was 8-7 in 1990 before injuring his rotator cuff in early August. He missed all of the 1991 season and didn't make his first start in 1992 until May 19. Bert was 8-12 with a 4.74 ERA in 1992 and was not resigned by the Angels after the season. He tried out for the Twins in 1993 but announced his retirement after failing to make the club.
  • Bert Blyleven looks back on his storied career (June 2006 Baseball Digest).
  • For the last nine years Bert has been a color analyst for the Minnesota Twins. He has been known to have some slipups from time to time (using bad words, etc.). He has a website on which he talks about baseball-related things and about the Hall of Fame.
  • Liked to face: Robin Yount (.182 in 110 AB); Pat Kelly (.149 in 87 AB); Bill Melton (.123 in 65 AB)
  • Hated to face: Lou Whitaker (.385 in 65 AB); Ben Oglivie (.316 in 79 AB); Willie Wilson (.321 in 78 AB); Reggie Jackson (batted only .214 vs. Blyleven but homered six times)


  1. Hadn't noticed the shadow on that Burt. Great card!

  2. Awesome card. Love Bly. Hope he gets into the Hall sooner than a trip to the Veterans committee