The Twins’ curve-ball commentator has yet to get a decent pitch from the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he’s still in the game
Five years ago, during a slow game in Kansas City, Blyleven found a use for his telestrator pen that revolutionized fan participation. He circled a Twins fan in the crowd. He did it again in Detroit, and by the time the Twins returned home, “Circle me, Bert” signs flashed throughout the Metrodome. “My favorites are the posters with the kid or granny sticking their head through a hole in the center,” he says.
His spontaneity makes producers squirm, however—never more so than his now-infamous double F-bomb drop during the September 3, 2006, pre-game show. Blyleven thought the show was being taped and that his remarks would later be edited. “When I heard them screaming in my ear we were live,” he says, “I felt about two inches high.” The slip-up caused a media furor and the video clip made the rounds on the Internet until Major League Baseball yanked it off Youtube.com, but sympathetic fans stood by the popular broadcaster. A state senator even offered to intercede with Twins president Dave St. Peter on Blyleven’s behalf. “A lot of people stepped forward and were friendly,” Blyleven says. “I didn’t get one negative call.”
The Twins ultimately decided Blyleven’s popularity outweighed his liabilities, signing him in January to a three-year contract with two one-year renewal options. But while the Minnesotans back him, the Hall of Fame voters must recognize Blyleven’s skills as a player by 2012, or his name will fall off the ballot. Only a special election by the Veterans’ Committee could get him voted in then.
“If it happens, great. If not, great,” he says. “I’ve still got great memories of my career.” And at least one funny photo to remember the true spirit of the game.
John Rosengren is a Minneapolis-based writer.