A tribute to Bert Blyleven, Part Three: The Minnesota Twins Legend
By Otto Johnson
With Bert Blyleven finishing his legendary career as a key face of the Minnesota Twins, we finish up our tribute by looking at his legacy.
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 part was centered on his broadcasting career, and this third and final installment will talk about his legacy within the organization. With that being said, here is a tribute to Bert Blyleven: The Minnesota Twins Legend.
Bert Blyleven, the Minnesota Twins Legend
The first two installments of this tribute to Bert Blyleven have focused on what Blyleven meant as both a player and a broadcaster. As much as he meant in both of those roles individually, the combination of the two has made him one of the most important figures in Minnesota Twins history.
As a player, Bert Blyleven was a Twins superstar. His stat line in Minnesota is one of the best ever:
- 348 G, 2566.2 IP, 149-138 W-L, 3.28 ERA, 141 CG, 29 SHO, 2035-674 K-BB, 49.1 WAR
We ranked Blyleven second in franchise history behind Walter Johnson in our list of the Top 8 Greatest Pitchers in Franchise History, but Blyleven is easily the best starting pitcher to ever don a Minnesota Twins uniform.
With Johnson excluded (he holds all franchise records), Blyleven is first in WAR and strikeouts, and second in wins, innings, complete games, and shutouts. His playing career made him a no-doubt superstar.
Even when Twins fans struggled to warm up to the man known as “The Frying Dutchman”, in his first stint with the Twins, he became a Twins legend when he helped the franchise win its first World Series Title in Minnesota.
While Twins fans became a little happier with Blyleven, it wasn’t until he began work as a broadcaster that Blyleven became one of the most iconic Twins ever. Just three years after he retired from baseball in 1993 (he retired as a Twin after a rough ’93 spring training), he got his first gig in Twins broadcasting as a color commentator for Twins television broadcasts in 1996.
From there, the persona of Bert Blyleven only grew. He saw the Twins through both good and bad, and his fantastic work with longtime broadcast partner Dick Bremer. He became an even more integral part of Twins Territory when “Circle Me Bert” became a popular part of Twins games.
Twins fans across the country would bring signs to games both in Minnesota and in other states across the country, all reading “Circle Me Bert”, in hopes that the Twins’ color commentator would indeed circle them with the telestrator.
Blyleven became one of the public faces of the Twins, and when analytics started coming into baseball, Blyleven started getting even more recognition. He was named to the Twins Hall of Fame in 2002 (one of just 34 Twins players and figures) and then the MLB Hall of Fame in 2011 (one of just nine Twins players) after fourteen years on the ballot.
The biggest honor came later in that same year, when the Twins made Blyleven just the sixth Twins player ever to have his number retired (Tom Kelly and Joe Mauer have had their number retired since).
In recent years, Blyleven has been slowly phased out of the limelight for the Twins. Circle Me Bert was moving towards becoming Winner’s Circle, and the now 69-year-old had been doing less Twins games on TV, with Justin Morneau taking over the lion’s share of the games.
Having Morneau and Roy Smalley call most of the games has allowed for a nice transition away from Blyleven on the mic. With Blyleven officially no longer calling games, he will move into a Special Assistant Role for the Twins, remaining in the organization in at least some capacity.
Though the Special Assistant role isn’t clearly defined for the Twins, it’s a common role for Twins Greats to step into. Blyleven will join Rod Carew, Kent Hrbek, Tom Kelly, Jack Morris, and Tony Oliva as current people to hold the position.
Though we won’t see or hear Blyleven as much any more as he moves into a little more of a private role, his legacy is established. As he approaches his 40th season with the club, it’s important to look back on everything he’s done and be in awe of it.
He will be remembered for a long time as one of the greatest Twins of all-time, both on the field and off of it. No matter what work he’s doing for the team, whether publicly or within the organization, he is a Minnesota Twins legend.