Now let's roll back in time to this story, published near the beginning of his career...in a time line of Bert's career, this period would be tucked between his debut game strikeout of big Frank Howard on June 5, 1970 and before the double bird gesture he made toward Twin's owner Calvin Griffith's box in the final game of his first stint with the Twins on May 31, 1976 (a story for another time!).
As it turns out, this was the only season that Bert tallied 20-wins. The following story clip gives some sense of his value as the head of the pitching rotation for the Twins. See also the comments from a noted, rival batter:
Hall-of-famer Cepeda's comment is illuminating. As he batted against the curve of the vaunted Sandy Koufax as a National Leaguer in the '60's, his remark should be taken as lofty praise. It evidences a highly respected place he held in the minds of American league hitters already in the early 1970's!
"He is the greatest curve-ball pitcher I've ever seen." - Orlando Cepeda
The following passage seems prophetic. All the quotes fairly underline the thought: watch this guy - he's going places (and no, I don't (only) mean under dugout benches to alight teammates with the dreaded hotfoots.)*
*"the prank of secretly inserting a match between the sole and upper of a victim's shoe and then lighting it" -
Box score referenced in above passage: see expanded for July 15th game at Baseball Reference.
Congratulations to Bert Blyleven on his entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame! There's your snapshot of early Bert. I'll be prepping another feature, detailing his first start on Opening Night of that Season, 1973.
May Your Taters Fly Far!