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MLB pitcher, Bert Blyleven, was born on April 6, 1951 in Zeist, Netherlands. Blyleven played from 1970 to 1992, and was best known for his curveball. His surname rhymes with "by 'leven", as in "by eleven", hence Chris Berman's nickname for him. He currently resides in Ft. Myers, Florida.
Bert Blyleven was raised in Garden Grove, California. He became interested in baseball as a young boy watching Sandy Koufax pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bert starred on the Santiago High School baseball team, also running cross country to build up his stamina and leg strength. He was drafted straight out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in the third round in 1969, where after only 21 minor league starts he found himself called up to the Majors at age 19, June 2, 1970. In his first season, his sharp curveball helped him to ten victories and he was named AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News.
Blyleven's early career with the Twins was not always pleasant as he was hounded by critics and fans and suffered with a dismal Minnesota Twins team. Becoming more vocal, Blyleven was traded to the Texas Rangers on June 1, 1976. He pitched well with the Rangers, having a 2.76 ERA in his first season and throwing a no-hitter against the California Angels on September 22, 1977, just two weeks after being sidelined with a groin injury.
On December 8, 1977, Blyleven and John Milner were traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of the first four-team trade in Major League Baseball history. With the Pirates, he led the team in ERA, strikeouts and complete games in 1978 and helped them to a World Series victory in 1979.
Blyleven became disgruntled with the Pirates and threatened to retire during the 1980 season if he was not traded. Eventually, the Pirates did trade him to the Cleveland Indians on December 9, 1980. Blyleven sat out most of the 1982 season with an elbow injury and struggled again in 1983, but came back in 1984 with one of his best seasons: a 19-7 record with a 2.87 ERA. He missed a second 20-win season that year when he was forced to miss a couple of starts after breaking his foot when joking around in the bullpen. Blyleven was unhappy playing for the lackluster Indians and forced a trade back to the Twins, where he passed the 3,000-strikeout mark and helped the Twins to a 1987 World Series victory.
Blyleven went to the California Angels in 1989 and pitched a 2.73 ERA for a 17-5 record in his first season, but he missed the entire 1991 season following rotator cuff surgery. He came back in 1992, but was mostly unproductive, going 8-12 with a 4.74 ERA. He retired following that season with a career 287-250 record with 3,701 strikeouts (only 16 other pitchers have at least 3,000 career strikeouts) and a 3.31 ERA. He tried out for the Twins again in the spring of 1993, but did not make the squad, making his retirement official.
Bert Blyleven is often considered to be the best eligible pitcher not yet in the Baseball Hall of Fame; his first year of eligibility was 1998 and if not elected by the 2012 ballot, he will lose eligibility for election through the writers' vote. If that happens, he can still enter the Hall of Fame through the Veterans Committee. He currently ranks 5th all-time in Strikeouts and 27th all-time in Wins. He is the only retired member of the 3000 strikeout club not in the Hall of Fame. Though he received only 17.55% of the vote for Hall of Fame admission in 1998 (first year of eligibility), by 2006 this total had increased to 53.33%. In 2007, Blyleven's total dipped to 47.7% (75% is the minimum required for admission to the Hall). In 2008, he received 336 votes, or 61.9% of the vote. Because of his long association with the club, it is believed that if elected to the Hall, Blyleven would enter as a Minnesota Twin.