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David Brown

Answer Man: Bert Blyleven talks the Hall, swearing on air

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Minnesota Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven loathes waiting. He wants a decision now. Suffering the indignity of being omitted from the Hall of Fame — when he should qualify with room to spare — is bad enough. Going through the five-year wait after retiring in 1992 with 287 wins, 3,700 strikeouts and 60 shutouts, was bad enough. Receiving such a small vote the first year, and watching support drop after that, was bad enough. Knowing you should be in, and having Hall of Famers tell you that you should be in, is bad enough.

It's all this waiting. He hates it. It's why he couldn't sit in a major league dugout without stirring things up. It's why he doesn't wait for privacy when needing to break wind. It's part of why he got into trouble for swearing on the air. It's part why he can't watch a crowd inside the Metrodome without circling fans with a telestrator. It's why he could not stand any longer to be bypassed by Answer Man.

Q: The first year you were on the ballot, Don Sutton was elected to the Hall. You got 17.5 percent of the vote. Did that shock you?

Bert Blyleven: I knew that I wasn't a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame inductee. The second or third year shocked me more than the first one. I think it actually went down to 14 (percent). That, I got a little pissed off about. I think I've learned, in time, to mellow out, to keep my feelings to myself. I really feel my numbers speak for themselves — and I probably should already be there — but it's not up to me. It's the writers' Hall of Fame. When they feel I deserve to be there, I guess, it'll happen.

Q: Were your feelings hurt?

BB: Yeah, I guess so. Yeah, they were, to be honest with you. As you retire and wait five years and you look at your numbers — the 60 shutouts, the complete games, the wins, and then the losses, the home runs allowed — I'm in the top 10 in (fewest) home runs allowed, but everyone around me is in the Hall of Fame.

Q: The electoral process in the Hall of Fame's history hasn't been consistent, which probably contributes to why guys such as yourself are not in. That said, how would you change the electorate, its standards and the process?

BB: The waiting game sometimes is unfair. But everybody has to wait. The writers earn that right to vote. Hopefully they take it with a lot of pride. I've heard through the grapevine that if a voter passes away, they still get a ballot and maybe it goes to an intern. I'd like to know that person did his homework ... Hopefully, they take the responsibility like players do on a game day and go out prepared to play.

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Q: Speaking of pride, what about this T-shirt you've been photographed wearing that says, "I [heart] to fart"?

BB: I LOVE to fart.

Q: What's wrong with you?

BB: I'm honest. Have you ever farted?

Q: One or two times.

BB: And did it feel good?

Q: Always.

BB: Probably so. That's why I wore it. I love to fart. I do. When the time is right, I do it. I'm not going to hide it.

Q: You're so blunt about your love for flatulence.

BB: Yeah. Well, someone gave me the shirt because of my history of farting, so I wear it. I LOVE to fart. I think I still have it.

Q: What gets you really gassy?

BB: Anything. The air we're breathing right now.

Q: Should I be ready for something?

BB: I have no trouble. It's not one thing that I eat, it's just passed down from my father. My father was a very good farter. I have a sister who's very good at it, too. Probably better than I am.

Q: Women aren't "supposed" to do that.

BB: Oh, I think times have changed — at least in the Blyleven family.

Q: Some people roll their eyes at Chris Berman's nicknames, but anyone has to like Bert "Be Home" Blyleven, right? Were you ever home by 11?

BB: I'm very honored he came up with that for me. As a starting pitcher, yes, I was sometimes home by nine o'clock [laughs].

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Q: With what kind of soap did you wash out your mouth after dropping the "F" bombs on the air in '06?

BB: No kind. That was completely an accident. I apologized for it. I thought we were taping — I always [bleep!] around on taping. That was a mistake that, hopefully, will never happen again.

Q: They gave you a five-game suspension, which seems hefty doesn't it?

BB: Seven total. I think, because of what Janet Jackson did the previous year at the Super Bowl, with the FCC. I can understand why they did that. I have no problem with it whatsoever. I was wrong in what I did and hopefully it's behind me — but it's still on YouTube if you want to see it.

Q: What happened when you talked to your mom about it?

BB: I told her it was a mistake and she forgave me, and my wife did. I apologized on the air right after we came back live. I had been confused about the order we had been taping things, and I looked down at my watch and saw it was one o'clock and they're screaming in my ear, "We're live!" and I go, "Oh, I didn't know that." Even in there, if you listen, when I do drop a couple of "F" bombs, I say, "Oh, well, it's only a [bleepin!] rehearsal anyway." I thought it was a rehearsal.

Q: OK, you're still not in the Hall, Bert. What can we do? What about expanding the electorate so that someone such as Vin Scully could vote?

BB: It's funny. I talked to Ernie Harwell about that. He thinks I should be in. He says in his great voice, "You know, Bert, I just don't know why announcers haven't been involved in the voting for the Hall of Fame. If only because they see these players every day." A guy like a Vin Scully — my goodness. Any radio play-by-play guy or TV play-by-play guy should — if they're there a certain amount of time, just like the writers for 10 years, I think, they should have the right to vote also.

Q: That would make you eligible to vote as a broadcaster.

BB: Well, I don't know about analysts. But the play-by-play guys for sure.

Q: Ever get into a confrontation with one of these Hall voters?

BB: I was on with Bob Ley from "Outside the Lines," with a writer — I forget from where —and we went back-and-forth. He hadn't voted for me but I think he's since changed his mind. But I can't sit down with 500 guys and try to convince them. The convincing, to me, is over with. I feel I'm going to be in there in a couple years. I honestly feel my time is coming.

Q: Is that based on how your vote totals have improved?

BB: I think with the steroid era — how the game has changed — and with guys pitching every fifth day now, there's no emphasis on complete games. I see guys pitching eight shutout innings and then not going out for the ninth because of a pitch count. We never had the pitch count.

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Q: In the '79 season, you started 37 games, pitched 237 innings and went 12-5. How'd you get so few decisions?

BB: Twenty no-decisions. That's a major league record. We had a club that scored late. That's one reason I didn't particularly like the National League — I liked decisions. I wanted to be out there in the eighth or ninth inning, win or lose. I wanted to have that ball in my hand. ... Back then, pitchers expected decisions ... In 1979, I'd leave the game and we're down, 2-1, up 2-1, tied, 1-1, whatever the score was, it was always close. Someone told me once that we won 31 of my the 37 starts I had. Bottom line is, we won. (Editor's note: The Bucs went 23-14 in Bert's starts that season — someone lied to Bert!)

Q: How did it get decided which uniforms you would wear in Pittsburgh? You had SO many combinations from which to choose.

BB: It was usually the clubhouse guy, John Houlihan. We had black hats, we had gold hats, we had black and gold hats. Jerseys with stripes. Whatever was in your bag. Sometimes, they'd hang 'em in your lockers and you didn't know if black pants went with it today, or what.

Q: Why is the hot foot still funny after all these years?

BB: First of all, you need a dummy. Where else better than on a bench, on a major league field? You got all kinds of dummies sitting right there.

Q: Ever give a hotfoot to Phil Garner's mustache?

BB: Ha! No, I think I lit him up a little bit but I never got that high. Maybe the flames did.

Q: Can you paint like the other Dutch masters?

BB: My fastball, I could. And my curve ball.

Q: There's this movie coming out called "Wanted" with Angelina Jolie.

BB: Oh, she's pretty.

Q: Indeed. Anyway, the agents in this movie can supposedly fire bullets and bend their trajectory around objects. Considering your curve, should you be in this film?

BB: No. I'm not an actor. And I've shot a .22 (caliber) rifle before, but not a gun. I'm from Southern California, so I feel much more comfortable with a golf club in my hand than I do a weapon. Well, sometimes that is a weapon.

Q: You were raised in Garden Grove, California. Ever attend services at the Crystal Cathedral?

BB: Oh, actually a lot. My dad was a deacon and an elder there, so as a kid we were there every Sunday. We were one of the families family's that started at the drive-in theater, and when he built the drive-in church, then we went there. It was like a movie theater, where he'd give sermons off a balcony. Mainly he did it because there were people who couldn't get out of their cars. That way, they could drive right up and open their car door windows, attach the speaker and relax to their sermon.

Q: Other than for circling people, what use is a telestrator in a baseball broadcast?

BB: Good question. Good question. There is no use for a one in a baseball game — unless you draw straight lines between outfielders to show how they're shading a batter and say, "OK, if he can hit it right here ..." I like my Circle Machine.

David Brown is a regular contributor to Big League Stew and writes Morning Juice, which runs Monday-Friday in the a.m. Answer Man is a regular feature on BLS.

Previous Answer Men:
Hunter Pence — April 10 • Justin Morneau — April 17 • David Wright — April 24 • Erin Andrews — April 25 • Andy Van Slyke — May 1 • Derek Jeter — May 8 • Bob Uecker — May 15

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