A tribute to Bert Blyleven, Part Two: The Minnesota Twins Broadcaster
By Greg Simbeck
With Bert Blyleven finishing his legendary career as a key face of the Minnesota Twins, we look back on his incredible broadcasting work.
With Bert Blyleven announcing he finished working as a color broadcaster for the Minnesota Twins and moving into a Special Assistant Role with the Minnesota Twins organization, a common role for individuals who are important to the franchise:
With Blyleven hanging up the microphone and ending his public career as part of the Minnesota Twins, we at Puckett’s Pond thought it appropriate to pay tribute to his iconic Twins career, both on the field and in the booth.
Younger fans may only remember Bert’s often comedic banter in the booth with Dick Bremer and his iconic Circling of Fans, but Blyleven was also one of the greatest pitchers in Twins history and a key piece of a title run.
Because of that this tribute will be broken down into three parts: the first part focused on his legendary playing career, the second will center on his broadcasting career, and the third installment will talk about his legacy within the organization. With that being said, here is a tribute to Bert Blyleven: The Broadcaster.
One of the Greatest Broadcasters in Minnesota Twins History
Bert Blyleven, started his broadcast career as the Twins television color commentator in 1996, a career that wrapped up with a game on Wednesday night when the Minnesota Twins beat the Chicago White Sox at Target Field.
That game marked the end of a 25-year career filled with really discerning commentary, lots of controversy, plenty of great wit, and a profound love of the game. Let’s take a look back at Bert’s illustrious broadcasting career.
Bert was first paired with Dick Bremer in the Twins broadcast booth in 1996 when the Twins games were carried on the Midwest Sports Channel. Other broadcast partners that he partnered with that year included Tommy John and Ryan Lefebvre, but Bremer and Blyleven clicked.
Minnesota Twins President & CEO Dave St. Peter said of the moment: “It is not often you can bring a Hall of Famer and a World Series champion into your broadcast booth, much less one who possesses that enviable combination of knowledge and charisma to keep fans hooked for more than two decades.” He couldn’t have been more right.
For the 25 years, Blyleven covered some of the best moments of the Minnesota Twins’ most recent history. He watched Torii Hunter, Johan Santana, Joe Mauer, and more become stars for the Minnesota Twins.
He’s seen seven division champions, two MVP winners, and two Cy Young winners, and so many memorable moments, but some of the top calls have come from now infamous “Circle Me Bert” signs and fans.
The “Circle Me Bert” segment started in 2002 when Fox Sports North gave him a telestrator at a game in Kansas City and told him to use it to describe the plays. Bert, ever the trickster, had other plans.
He spotted a Twins fan in the upper deck and said: “Here you go, you are hereby circled.”, and a Twins legendary custom was born, with fans coming from all over Twins territory to be circled. Eventually the segment was used as a fundraiser to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease and for other charitable causes, but he continued to circle fans throughout his career in the booth.
Bert’s commentary was not without its controversy. One of the best examples was his ill-advised tweets in 2015 that were of a derogatory nature towards the City of Detroit that were immediately rebuked by the Governor of Michigan.
In response, Blyleven and Fox Sports North issued a statement that read in part: “We were disappointed with Bert Blyleven’s comments on social media earlier today regarding the city of Detroit. “His attempt at humor during the rain delay certainly missed the mark and in no way is reflective of the Twins and Fox Sports North.”
In addition, there was the famous live TV “f-bomb” incident which happened 17 years ago today. Blyleven’s famous one finger salutes were already well-known, but this was one of the first times he was caught actually swearing on camera.
He was a prankster in the booth too. Bert recently admitted that his use of the pitching term, “the downward plane” isn’t real, and that he made up the saying just to see if Minnesota Twins play-by-play voice Dick Bremer would repeat it.
In fact, one person close to Bremer said. “On (Justin) Morneau’s first night in the booth, Dick asked him when he was going to give him a hotfoot, or if he planned to ‘press ham’ on the driver’s side window of his car. Dick just assumes anyone who is in the booth with him is going to engage in an unrelenting, multi-front prank spree.”
Blyleven had gotten so far into Bremer’s mind that he was just so prepared for everyone afterwards to do the same. His incredible broadcasting style kept us on our toes with with witty, insightful, unpredictable, and always authentic commentary.