Rik Albert Blyleven, better known as Bert Blyleven (born April 6, 1951 in Zeist, Netherlands), is a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played in the 1970s and 1980s, best known for his astounding curveball.
The Netherlands-born but southern California-raised Blyleven became interested in baseball as a young boy watching Sandy Koufax pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Blyleven was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the third round in 1969 and after a brief stint in the minor leagues, he was called up by the Twins on June 2, 1970. In his first season, his sharp curveball helped him to ten victories and he was named AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News.
However, Blyleven's early career with the Twins was not always pleasant as he was hounded by critics and fans and suffered with a dismal Minnesota Twins team. Becoming more vocal, Blyleven was traded to the Texas Rangers on June 1, 1976. He pitched well with the Rangers, throwing a 2.76 ERA in his first season and throwing a no-hitter against the California Angels on September 22, 1977, just two weeks after being sidelined with a groin injury.
On December 8, 1977, Blyleven and John Milner were traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of the first four-team trade in Major League Baseball history. With the Pirates, he led the team in ERA, strikeouts and complete games in 1978 and helped them to a World Series victory in 1979.
However, Blyleven became disgruntled with the Pirates and threatened to retire during the 1980 season if he was not traded. Eventually, the Pirates did trade him to the Cleveland Indians on December 9, 1980. Blyleven sat out most of the 1982 season with an elbow injury and struggled again in 1983, but came back in 1984 with one of his best seasons: a 19-7 record with a 2.87 ERA. But Blyleven was unhappy playing for the lackluster Indians and forced a trade back to the Twins, where he passed the 3,000-strikeout mark and helped the Twins to a 1987 World Series victory.
Blyleven went to the California Angels in 1989 and pitched a 2.73 ERA for a 17-5 record in his first season, but he missed the entire 1991 season following rotator cuff surgery. He came back in 1992, but was mostly unproductive, going 8-12 with a 4.74 ERA. He retired following that season with a career 287-250 record with 3,701 strikeouts and a 3.31 ERA.
In 1996, he became a color commentator for the Twins. In early 2002 during a quiet portion of a Twins game, he circled (on television) a fan carrying a sign in the stands of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and signs reading "Circle Me, Bert" (or variants thereupon) quickly became a popular phenomenon at the Dome, continuing into the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
- Minnesota Twins (1970-1976, 1985-1988)
- Texas Rangers (1976-1977)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (1978-1980)
- Cleveland Indians (1981-1985)
- California Angels (1989-1992)
- Bert Blyleven's career statistics at Baseball-Reference.com