1989: Bert Blyleven of the Minnesota Twins stands in the dugout during a game in the 1989 season. (Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
I got the call about five minutes before the announcement was made. I had never received that call before, and thought finally, it would be the good news I had been waiting for. I was going to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately that was not the case. The call was a courtesy to tell me I had come up five votes short. Only one player got in, they said, and I knew right away it wasn’t me.
I’ve vented in the past about not making it. But getting so close (five votes short) and making such a big leap overall in percentage (from 62.7 percent to 74.2 percent), I have to look at is as a positive. ESPN’s Chris Berman gave me the nickname Bert “Be Home” Blyleven. So, maybe 2011 will be a good year for me. I’m not going to count my chickens before they hatch, but hopefully the momentum will keep going my way.
I am very happy for Andre Dawson making it to Cooperstown, and I’d also like to congratulate Randy Johnson, who just announced his retirement on Tuesday and will surely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2015.
I faced Dawson when I was with the Pirates, and while I did pretty well against him (.195 batting average in 41 at-bats), he did hit a couple home runs off me, and was a middle of the lineup guy who had many good years. He did so many things right on the field, and showed great determination once his knees started to go. He did everything. And when we played against him, fans got to see two of the finest outfield arms around with he and my teammate Dave Parker.
As for the Big Unit, he was all about fear, intimidation and aggression. He was a lot like Nolan Ryan. Both threw so hard, and night after night were the guys people wanted to come see pitch. Baseball had never seen a pitcher like Johnson, who at 6-foot-10 struggled to find his control early in his career. It took him awhile to find the right release point, but once he did he was amazing, winning five Cy Young awards.
As for this year’s voting, I’m happy to be as close as I was, and hopefully 2011 will be my year. With only five more votes to go, I think I have a good chance.
I’m very happy for Dawson, but I must admit that when they told me only one player got in to Cooperstown, I assumed it would be Roberto Alomar, a dominant second baseman with the glove and the bat. I thought he would be a lock, and all the experts were expecting him to go right in. I’m sure he’ll be in there next year as he logged only three fewer votes than I did in his first year of eligibility.
I also think Barry Larkin, who got just more than 50 percent, is a future Hall of Famer as probably the best shortstop of his era.
Former Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez (36.2 percent) is an interesting case as he played the majority of his career as a designated hitter. Some will knock him for that, but the DH rule was put into baseball in 1973, and Martinez simply played a role that is part of the game, and I don’t think he should be penalized for that.
I faced him and he was just a pure hitter. He was highly respected by everyone in baseball. Opposing players, myself included, would come out just to watch him take batting practice, and he was admired for how he went about his business and prepared for a game.
I know that if the DH didn’t exist Martinez would have been in the lineup somewhere, and I think he will eventually get into Cooperstown.
I also think Jack Morris (52.3 percent) is finally getting the respect he deserves and I hope he also makes it into the Hall of Fame. And next year, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker will be among the new eligible players, and all are deserving.
I have had to fight for my cause, and at times it has been hard. I have received some great help from guys like Rich Lederer at BaseballAnalysts.com.
It was sad that I missed getting in by a mere five votes, but for the most part I am very positive and optimistic. It will be a year of anticipation, and hopefully the same voters who selected me will stick with me, and we can convince a few others to join.
I feel very good that I jumped almost 12 percent in the voting and came so close to getting in. It was very encouraging. Hopefully next year will be my year.