Netherlands born Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven won 287 games and struck out 3701 batters over a 23 year career with the Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians and California Angels which he began in 1970 at age 19. He had a nasty curveball, spoke his mind and was a notorious prankster. He was a two time World Champion with the “We Are Family” Pirates in 1979 and in his second stint with the Twins in 1987; a two time All Star with the Twins and the Indians; and the 1989 A.L. Comeback Player of the Year. He won 20 games for the Twins in 1973 and 19 for the Indians in 1984, and he followed that season up in 1985 with 17 wins, 5 shutouts and a led the A.L. with an astounding 24 complete games. On September 22, 1977 he no-hit the Angels while pitching for the Rangers. Bert was inducted in the Twins Hall of Fame in 2002 and Cooperstown in 2011. The Twins also retired his No. 28 that same year. Bert has been a Twins’ broadcaster since 1996. Here is his Opening Day memory.
“I think throughout my 23 years, I probably opened the season maybe a half a dozen times, so to pick one specific date is really hard.” But my most memorable Opening Day probably was in 1972–my first one–at the age of just 21 years old. Being such a young age and also having guys on the team like Jim Perry and Jim Kaat, and getting the nod ahead of them, was very memorable. I’m not exactly sure how I did, but being an Opening Day starter at such a young age was an honor.
Bert pitched 6 innings that day against the Oakland A’s and gave up only 2 runs. But his Twins lost to the A’s 4-3 in 10.
See you in two. Richie
I will always remember talking guitars and Opening Day with New York Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams. Bernie patrolled center field for the Yankees from 1991-2006. He was a 4 time World Champion (1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000), a 5 time American League All Star, a 4 time Gold Glove recipient a Silver Slugger and the 1996 ALCS MVP. In the Yankees 114-48 1998 World Championship year, he became the first player ever to win a batting title (.339), a Gold Glove and a World Series ring. Prior to that season, Bernie was the constant victim of George Steinbrenner trade threats, and I remember being fearful after the 1998 season that he might leave and sign with the Red Sox as a free agent. But he didn’t, and instead signed a 7 year contract with the Yankees and they proceeded to make the playoffs every year of Bernie’s contract. He finished his Yankee career with a .297 batting average, 287 HRs, 1257 RBIs and over 2300 hits. He was as clutch as they come in the post season and still holds the post season RBI record with 80. Bernie post baseball keeps busy with his jazz guitar performing and recording. I saw him play on Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium in 2009. Here is his Opening Day memory.
“I remember it was Opening Day against the Red Sox in 1992 and the Rocket was pitching. I don’t think I was playing. I just remember the whole stadium was packed. I think we broke a record for the highest Opening Day attendance that year. I just remember the atmosphere at the Yankee Stadium playing against the Red Sox on Opening Day and Roger was pitching and everything seemed so surreal. It was just a memorable moment for me.”
Thanks Bernie. See you in two. Richie