Tag Archives: Nolan Ryan

Remembering the Phillies first-ever big free agent signing of Pete Rose

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Rose became the first big free agent signing by the Phillies in December 1978

The Philadelphia Phillies frustratingly lost out on free agent starting pitcher Patrick Corbin. They supposedly remain among the most active bidders for  the big bats of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado as this off-season moves along.

It was forty years ago today that the Phillies made their first-ever free agent signing, and it was a big one. It turned out to have as positive an impact on the history of the organization as those who made the decision could have hoped.
There were a number of superstars who made up the core of the Cincinnati Reds legendary ‘Big Red Machine’ back-to-back World Series champions of 1975-76. But the man who provided the engine to that powerful train was Pete Rose.
Nicknamed ‘Charlie Hustle’ because of his highly competitive style of play, Rose was already 37-years-old when Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter gave his blessing to the four-year, $3.225 million contract negotiated by GM Paul Owens.
The Phillies had won three consecutive National East Division crowns from 1976-78. But each year they fell short in the League Championship Series. They were swept out by Rose and the Reds champions of 1976. In both 1977 and 1978, the Los Angeles Dodgers won an NLCS each year when the Phillies seemed poised to win for themselves.
Those Phillies teams were extremely talented. Led by future Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton and filled with numerous Gold Glove Award winners and NL All-Stars, they had the talent to win. They just didn’t seem to quite know how to actually get the job done.
Rose knew how to win the big one. He was a key part, perhaps the most important part, of those Reds championship teams. Voted the Most Valuable Player of perhaps the greatest World Series in history, the Reds unforgettable seven-game 1975 victory.
Rose was the 1963 NL Rookie of the Year and a decade later was the 1973 National League Most Valuable Player. He had been runner-up for that NL MVP in 1968, and would finish among the top five in voting on three other occasions. Rose was a 12x NL All-Star, and won back-to-back NL Gold Glove Awards as an outfielder in 1969 and 1970.
This was the player whom the Phillies decided was, even at an advanced age for a baseball player, worth the largest contract in the history of the game. Carpenter and Owens brought Rose to Philadelphia for one reason alone, to put the team over the top. To finally win the first World Series title in franchise history.
During his first season with the Phillies, Rose helped drive the team back to the top of the division. They moved into first place on April 21 and would remain there for more than a month, building an early 3.5 game lead at one point. And then the wheels fell off.
The 1979 Phillies collapsed under a myriad of injuries, losing second baseman Manny Trillo, catcher Bob Boone, and starting pitchers Dick Ruthven and Larry Christenson for chunks of the season.
They would finish 84-78, a disappointing fourth place, 14 games behind the division-winning “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates team that would go on to win the World Series that year.
Rose himself could hardly have been considered a disappointment, however. He had 208 hits, including 40 doubles. He stole 20 bases and his .418 on-base percentage led the National League. Rose was selected to his 13th NL All-Star team that year.
It would finally all come together the following year. Rose led the NL with 42 doubles and was again an NL All-Star. And finally, the Phillies were World Series champions.
It wasn’t an easy battle. The Phillies had to fight off the tough, young Montreal Expos over the final week of the regular season, winning their fourth NL East crown in five years on the final weekend of the season in Montreal. Next came a tremendous challenge, overcoming the tough Houston Astros and their dominating pitching staff led by Nolan Ryan.
The Phillies would win what still may be the greatest NLCS in history by 3-2. Each of the last four games were decided in extra innings. Rose famously steam-rolled Astros catcher Bruce Bochy to score the winning run of Game 4 as the Phillies tied the series. It was stereotypical Rose, and epitomized the very reason he was brought to the team.
In the World Series against the Kansas City Royals, Rose was largely absent at the plate. He hit just .261 with a double and two walks, and one RBI.
But even without his usual offensive impact, Rose would still leave a lasting positive impression. With one out in the top of the 9th inning of Game 6, Tug McGraw was on the mound and the Phillies were trying to nail down the title.
The Royals had base runners and were threatening a comeback when Frank White sent a foul pop towards the Phillies dugout. Catcher Bob Boone ran to snare it for the second out, but the ball popped out of his glove. It could have fallen to the ground, and the Royals could have been given another shot to extend their rally.
Rose would have none of it. Again typical of his ‘Charlie Hustle’ nickname, Rose sped towards Boone and the popup. When the ball bounced out of Boone’s glove, Rose shot his own out and snared the ball before it had a chance to drop.
The Phillies had the valuable second out. McGraw then struck out Willie Wilson, and the Phillies were world champions for the first time in their 97-year history.
That would be the lone championship during the four seasons that Rose would play in Phillies pinstripes. The 1981 team reached the postseason but were defeated in a tough five-game NLDS by the Expos. Rose hit .325 and led all of baseball with 140 hits during that strike-shortened campaign.
The 1982 Phillies were in first place once again as late as September 13, but a 4-9 stretch over the next two weeks doomed them. That team finished in second, three games behind a Saint Louis Cardinals team that would win the World Series. The four-year contract was up, but Rose and the Phillies agreed on a one-year deal for the 1983 season.
In his final Phillies season, Rose again helped lead the Phillies to a National League pennant. He was an NL All-Star for a 16th time in that 1983 season, his fourth straight all-star appearance as a member of the Phillies. Rose hit .375 in the NLCS victory over the Dodgers and then .313 in the World Series, but the Phillies lost in five games to the Baltimore Orioles.
Rose would sign as a free agent with the Expos, where he would play 95 games during the 1984 season. The Expos would then deal him back to where it all began in Cincinnati. Rose would finish out a 24-year big-league career with the Reds in 1986 at age 45.
Over his five seasons in Philadelphia, Rose hit .291 with a .365 on-base percentage from ages 38-42. He banged out 826 hits, including 139 doubles, and scored 390 runs. Perhaps most importantly, Rose pushed Schmidt from being an all-star to a Hall of Fame caliber player.
“Mike was the best player in the league three or four days a week when I got to the Phillies in 1979,” Rose told The Sporting News when Schmidt entered the Hall of Fame. “By the time I left, he had learned to be the best seven days a week.
There were a number of controversies that would envelop Rose in his later years as a manager. Even more would pop up in recent years to derail his enshrinement into the Phillies Wall of Fame.
But on this date in 1979 the Philadelphia Phillies did what the 2018 Phillies can only hope to accomplish. The signed a controversial superstar free agent player who actually helped the team win a World Series championship, and helped them contend for the life of his contract.

The Phillies have been involved in three winner-take-all postseason games

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Garry Maddox delivered the winning hit and recorded final out in 1980 NLCS

The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers by a 7-2 score on Friday night. The victory by the Brew Crew forces an ultimate Game 7 in the National League Championship Series tonight at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

There have now been 136 seasons of baseball in the history of the Philadelphia Phillies franchise, 14 of which have resulted in a postseason appearance. None has ever resulted in the Phillies participating in a Game 7.
However, the Phillies and their fans have experienced the nervous energy and thrill of some winner-take-all drama on three occasions.
The first was Game 5 of the National League Championship Series back in 198o. The following year during the first-ever National League Division Series held because of the split-season due to a player strike, it happened again. Three decades would then pass before the next in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.
The Phillies have enjoyed the thrill of victory just once, in that 1980 NLCS. They went down in heart-breaking fashion in both 1981 and 2011. The two losses came as a result of similar circumstances.
The 1980 series between the Phillies and Houston Astros was perhaps the greatest NLCS in history. All three were close, dramatic games, with the last four all ending in extra-innings.
The Phillies won the opener at Veteran’s Stadium by a 3-1 score behind a Steve Carlton gem and a Greg Luzinski home run. Houston then scored four runs in the top of the 10th to even the series at Veteran’s Stadium in Game Two.
Back home at the Astrodome for Game Three, the Astros got a leadoff triple in the bottom of the 11th from Joe Morgan off Tug McGraw in a 0-0 game. Following two intentional walks, Denny Walling scored Morgan with the walkoff, putting Houston within a game of their first-ever World Series appearance.
The Phillies fought back, rallying from a 2-0 deficit in Game Four to score three times in the top of the 8th inning. After Houston tied it up in the last of the 9th, the Phillies scored twice in the top of the 10th to win it. That rally was highlighted by Pete Rose plowing into Bruce Bochy with the go-ahead run.
With the NLCS tied at two games apiece, the decisive Game Five would take place once again in Houston. This time the Astros had a literal ace-in-the-hole in Nolan Ryan, and the big right-hander rolled into the top of the 8th inning with a 5-2 lead.
The Phillies then scratched and clawed their way back, scoring five times in that 8th inning to take a 7-5 lead. Houston refused to die, scoring twice in the bottom of the frame to tie it up, and again the two teams headed to extras.
In the top of the 10th inning, Del Unser, whose pinch-hit RBI single had tied it up in that big Phillies 8th inning rally, once again played the hero by doubling to right field. Then with two outs, Garry Maddox dropped a ball into center field, driving in Unser with the go-ahead run.
Manager Dallas Green then brought his #2 starting pitcher, right-hander Dick Ruthven, in to pitch the bottom of the 10th inning. Ruthven retired the Astros in order, getting Enos Cabell to fly out to Maddox for the final out. The Phillies had won their first National League pennant in three decades en route to their first-ever World Series victory.
The following year of 1981 was marred by a strike from the players, one that resulted in Major League Baseball deciding to split the season into two halves. The Phillies were in first place at the time of the strike, and thus were awarded the first-half title.
In the second half, the Montreal Expos finished on top. This meant that the Phillies and Expos would face-off in the first-ever National League Division Series.
The whole split-season thing was all a bit frustrating for the Saint Louis Cardinals, who finished with a better overall record than both the Phillies and Expos in the NL East, and who finished just a half-game behind Montreal in the second half.
In fact, over in the NL West Division the Cincinnati Reds finished with the overall best record in baseball but were also shut out of the postseason. The Reds ended the first half at a half-game behind the Dodgers and finished the second half at 1.5 back of the Astros.
In the best-of-five NLDS, the Expos bolted out to a 2-0 lead by shutting the defending champion Phillies down in identical 3-1 victories at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The series then returned to Veteran’s Stadium for the final three games. The Phillies bats finally awoke for a 6-2 win in Game Three.
With the Phillies now trailing 2-1 in the series and their backs still to the wall, Game Four moved into the bottom of the 10th inning tied at 5-5. Green sent up 25-year-old George Vukovich to leadoff as a pinch-hitter for McGraw.
With just a single home run in 91 plate appearances spread over his first two seasons to that point, Vukovich seemed an unlikely hero. But that is exactly what he became when he ripped the first pitch from Expos closer Jeff Reardon over the right field wall and into the Phillies bullpen for a walkoff homer.
The momentum now seemed in the Phillies favor for the decisive Game Five. They had won two straight, were at home in front of their roaring fans, and would have Carlton on the mound. The only problem? Someone forgot to tell Expos starting pitcher Steve Rogers that he didn’t stand a chance.
Rogers had bested Carlton in the opener by battling through 8.1 innings in which he surrendered 10 hits but allowed just a single run. He was even better this time.
In a complete game masterpiece, Rogers shut out the Phillies on six hits. And in the top of the 5th inning his bases-loaded single off Carlton scored two runs to break up a 0-0 showdown. The Expos won 3-0 and advanced on to the NLCS, and the Phillies were dethroned.
The last winner-take-all for the franchise in 2011 also ended in heartbreaking fashion with the opposition starting pitcher out-dueling a Phillies ace.
In 2011, the Phillies had set an all-time franchise record by winning 102 games during the regular season. That came largely thanks to a starting rotation featuring the ‘Four Aces’: Roy HalladayCliff LeeRoy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels.
The Cardinals had not even won their division. They finished in second place in the NL Central, six games behind the Milwaukee Brewers. But the Cards beat out the Atlanta Braves for the NL Wildcard berth on the final day of the season, earning an opportunity against the Phillies in the NLDS.
The Phillies took two of the first three games and very nearly got a sweep. Saint Louis stayed alive by rallying from an early 4-0 deficit against Lee to eke out a 5-4 win in Game Two. The Cards then won Game Four at Busch Stadium to force a decisive game back in Philadelphia.
For that dramatic Game Five at Citizens Bank Park, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel sent his ace of aces Halladay to the mound. Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa countered with big right-hander Chris Carpenter, an off-season hunting and fishing buddy of Halladay’s.
The Phillies had battered Carpenter early in Game Two, driving him from the mound by scoring four times over the first three frames. But a parade of six Cardinals relievers then completely shut the Phillies bats down to keep Saint Louis in the series.
Halladay was strong, surrendering just a single run on six hits while walking one and striking out seven over eight innings. He yielded extra-base hits to the first two batters of the game to fall behind 1-0 but would scatter just four singles the rest of the way.
Carpenter, however, would not allow himself to be embarrassed again. The 36-year-old veteran delivered a true masterpiece, allowing the Phillies just three hits in a complete game shutout that was eerily reminiscent of Rogers’ elimination of the Phillies three decades earlier.
Carpenter was in trouble just once, getting Raul Ibanez to fly out with runners on the corners and two down in the bottom of the 4th inning. In the bottom of the 9th, he retired Ryan Howard on a weak grounder for the final out, ‘The Big Piece’ crumpling to the ground with what turned out to be a major Achilles injury while trying to run from the batter’s box.
Someday the Phillies and their fans may have to sit through the tense drama of a Game 7 during a National League Championship Series or a World Series. It would be a first for the franchise.
If it should come in one of those scenarios, or perhaps during an NL Wildcard Game or a decisive fifth game of a Division Series, the memories of those three previous winner-take-all Phillies October dramas are sure to be relived.
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies have never been to Game 7, but have been winner-take-all

Texas Rangers / Washington Senators All-Time 25-Man Roster

The Texas Rangers were formed from a failed attempt by Major League Baseball to forcibly keep a big league team in the Nation’s Capital.
The original Washington Senators had been one of the American League’s eight charter franchises. That club traced its existence back to the 1901 founding of the junior circuit.
Those first Senators relocated to Minnesota in 1961, where they became the current Twins. Wanting to keep baseball in D.C., an expansion club was created by MLB as a replacement.
The new expansion Washington Senators thus began play in that 1961 season. The team would remain there through the 1971 season.
The Senators had a losing record through each of their first eight seasons. With the nearby Baltimore Orioles as a consistent contender, attendance became a serious issue.
In 1969, baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams was brought in as the skipper with no prior managerial experience. “The Splendid Splinter” would guide the club to its only winning campaign. Williams’ 1969 Senators team finished 86-76 in the first year of MLB divisional play.

THE MOVE TO TEXAS

The Senators quickly fell back to their losing ways in 1970. This finally resulted in the ball club relocating out to Arlington, Texas where they became the current Texas Rangers ahead of the 1972 season.
In 1974, Texas rose to second place in the AL West, finishing just five games out. Their 84-76 record was just the second winning campaign in franchise history up to that point.
By 1977 the Rangers had become a major contender for the first time. They won 94 games and again finished in second place, eight games short of an extremely talented Kansas City Royals team.
For most of the next two decades the Rangers would see-saw up and down the standings. Texas would lose as many as 99 games in 1985, then win as many as 87 games the very next year.

FUTURE POTUS HELPS RANGERS BECOME WINNERS

The Rangers were sold in 1989 to a group that included future U.S. President George W. Bush. A minority owner, Bush was nonetheless elected as the team’s Managing General Partner.
The future President became a key player in setting up deals over the next few years which would result in the building of The Ballpark in Arlington. That facility would later be renamed as Globe Life Park.
Bush gave up his position with the team after being elected as the Governor of Texas in 1994, the same year that the Rangers finally moved into their new home.
Emerging from the crippling baseball strike of 1994, the Rangers quickly became a consistent contender in their new home. Texas won 90 games in 1996, capturing the first AL West crown in franchise history.
The Rangers would again capture division championships in both 1998 and 1999. After each of those three first place finishes, Texas was knocked out in the ALDS by the dynastic New York Yankees teams of the late 1990’s.

NEW CENTURY LOSERS BECOME TITLE CONTENDERS

As the 21st century dawned, the club fell back to their losing ways. For eight of the nine seasons between 2000-2008 the Rangers suffered through losing campaigns.
Texas rose in the standings once again in the 2009 season. They have once again become consistent contenders, with seven winning seasons over the last eight.
In 2010, the Rangers reached the World Series for the first time. Texas then returned the following season, capturing back-to-back American League pennants.
In both of these Fall Classic appearances the club appeared on the verge of capturing their first world championship. Both times, fate intervened to deny them the title. Texas remains one of eight clubs to never win a World Series crown.
The Rangers have now captured the AL West title in four of the last seven seasons. Division winners the last two years, they remain a strong contender entering the 2017 season.

PUTTING TOGETHER THE ALL-TIME ROSTER

Many great players have pulled on a Rangers jersey over the last four and a half decades. In fact, players from the Texas years make up the vast majority of this All-Time 25-Man Roster for the franchise. Only two men who ever wore a Senators jersey have made the cut.
In putting together this feature for other organizations, I have stuck with a formula. I normally name 11 pitchers to the roster, with a breakdown of nine starters and two relievers. The position players have usually broken down as two catchers, six infielders, and six outfielders.
In evaluating the Rangers history, there were just too many great infielders to keep that balance. Frankly, with a handful of notable exceptions, great pitching has rarely been an organizational strength. Only 10 pitchers are named here to the Rangers list: eight starters and two relievers.
There are a full eight infielders named to the roster. The two catchers are still here, and the team has five outfielders named instead of the usual six.

MISSING THE CUT

Even with making these adjustments, a number of strong position players were left off the roster.
My apologies go out to those who have been left off. Included among these are position players such as Julio FrancoKen McMullenNelson CruzMark TeixeiraMike HargroveBump WillsAl Oliver, and Will Clark.
Failing to make the cut on the mound were Gaylord PerryCole HamelsJon MatlackJose GuzmanDick BosmanJohn Burkett, and Rick Helling.
Let’s take a look now at who did make the final cut for the Texas Rangers / Washington Senators All-Time 25-Man Roster.

MLB 2011: American League

I wonder how Philadelphia Phillies fans would feel about Terry Francona (above) managing his club to a World Series title for the 3rd time? Especially if this time those Boston Red Sox defeat the Fightin’ Phils for the world championship, as I am predicting is going to happen in late October of 2011.
The American League’s East Division is where you can find the greatest blood feud in baseball history, that between the Bosox and their hated southern neighbors, the dynastic New York Yankees. Both clubs have had recent success, with the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007, and the Yanks winning it all in 2009. For this coming season, I am picking the two clubs to battle for the A.L. East crown, and for Boston to come out on top.
The Red Sox struggled through an injury-marred 2010 and missed the post-season. But over this past winter the club was reinforced with a pair of game-changing offensive talents in 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left fielder Carl Crawford. AGonz will bang the ball all over Fenway Park, and Crawford’s speed paired with that of Jacoby Ellsbury will give the Bosox’ game something new with which to challenge opponents. Add in 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia, 3rd sacker Kevin Youkilis, and veteran right fielder J.D. Drew and Boston has some of the best offensive talent in the game. On the mound the Sox are deep and talented in both their rotation and in the bullpen, with a tremendous mix of veterans such as Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon and kids such as Jon Lester and Daniel Bard. This is, given reasonable health, clearly the team to beat.
The Yankees lineup is aging in spots, particularly on the left side of the infield where future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez perform. But both of these players will be back and should perform well in the coming season, and Jeter should become the first Yankee in history to reach the 3,000 career hits milestone. With Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, this may be the best all-around infield in baseball. The Yanks appear to be a little short on outfield pop, and their starting pitching has serious depth problems.

However, the bullpen has the best closer in baseball history in Mariano Rivera being setup now by one of the best in recent years, Rafael Soriano. The Yanks also now have shutdown lefty relievers, and have plenty of cash with which to eventually shore up any weaknesses. They will contend once again.
In 2 of the past 3 seasons, it has not been Boston or New York that has won this tough division. Instead, the Tampa Bay Rays have vaulted past both and finished on top. However, the small-market Rays began to lose talent to free agency this off-season, including Crawford to Boston, and do not appear to have the firepower beyond all-star 3rd sacker Evan Longoria to stay with those top two dogs this time around. The Rays pitching should keep them ahead of both Buck Showalter’s improving Baltimore Orioles and a slugging Toronto Blue Jays squad to round out the A.L. East standings.
In the A.L. Central, I can see a case being made for any one of three clubs winning this race, but I am going to put my money down on the Chicago White Sox at this point. Manager Ozzie Guillen has a multi-talented club with a strong bullpen. If they get any kind of reasonable production out of Jake Peavy, they may win the division comfortably. Even if not, they still get my nod to win in a squeaker over the Minnesota Twins. The Twinkies are always dangerous, but may be facing some health issues with franchise cornerstones Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. If both of those guys find some way to get and stay healthy the majority of the season, look for the Twins to again be serious division title contenders.
The team that might surprise here in the A.L. Central is the Detroit Tigers. Skipper Jim Leyland feels he has talent and depth. He just might have enough to make a run at the club’s first title since moving to the Central Division in 2008. Since reaching the 2006 World Series as the division’s first-ever Wildcard team, Leyland has generally had the club in some form of contention. It will be largely up to the pitching staff if this current club wants to return to the post-season. Both Cleveland and Kansas City appear to be after-thoughts, although before the year is out we may begin to see the first signs of the Royals’ top-rated farm system bring some long overdue excitement back to KC.
Out in the American League West Division we find baseball’s only 4-team alignment. Legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan fronted a bid to buy the Texas Rangers last season, and his group emerged victorious in that battle. His team then emerged victorious in the division and playoff battles, reaching the World Series for the first time in franchise history. It says here that despite losing ace Cliff Lee, the Rangers and A.L. MVP Josh Hamilton will still have enough to hold off the always dangerous Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Halos still look to be clearly the only team that has the firepower to keep up with Texas. The Oakland A’s have some strong young pitching, enough to perhaps keep things interesting on their side of the Bay for awhile this summer, but neither they nor the Seattle Mariners should provide much competition in the end.
So with Boston, Chicago, and Texas all picked as divisional winners, the only race left would be for the A.L. Wildcard spot. I see three clubs as serious contenders for that, and would rank them in this order: the Yankees, the Angels, and finally the Twins. The dark horse contender team is the Detroit Tigers, with the Tampa Bay Rays also being a potential longshot playoff contender if all of their questions are answered right. I am going to call it a “Battle of the Sox” in the ALCS, with Boston’s red downing Chicago’s white, and with the Bosox then taking home their 3rd World Series title in 8 years.
For the award winners, lets go with Adrian Gonzalez of Boston as the A.L. MVP, with Tampa Bay’s David Price as the Cy Young Award winner, and with the White Sox’ outstanding young lefty arm Chris Sale as the A.L. Rookie of the Year. Guillen will win the Manager of the Year for guiding those Pale Hose to the Central crown. Aside from the real battles between the contenders, real baseball fans should pay attention late in the season to both Baltimore and Kansas City, as each young club should be showcasing some excellent kids who may bring those two former contenders back to the glory days some season soon.

Dutchman Curves Out Spot in Hall

On June 2nd, 1970, while I was just a little 8-year old wrapping up the 3rd grade year at Our Lady of Mount Carmel school in South Philly and had not yet become the big baseball fan that I have since, the Minnesota Twins called up from their minor league system a 19-year old right handed pitcher by the name of Bert Blyleven.

In that first abbreviated season of four months length, the kid with just 21 minor league starts under his belt used a devastating curveball to help him rack up 10 victories for Minnesota. For that debut performance The Sporting News selected him as it’s American League ‘Rookie of the Year’ for 1970.

Over the ensuing two decades, Blyleven continued to bedevil hitters in both the A.L. and N.L. with what became widely regarded by the end of his career as the best curveball ever thrown in the long history of the sport. He used that curveball to help two different clubs, the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and the 1987 Minnesota Twins, win the World Series. He was the 1989 A.L. Comeback Player of the Year, a 2-time All-Star, and pitched a no-hitter in 1977.

Blyleven completed more than a third of his 685 career starts over 23 seasons, winning 287 games and registering 60 shutouts. He also used that curve to strikeout 3,701 batters which leaves him fourth on the all-time list behind only a quartet of living legends: Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, and Roger Clemens.

On Wednesday afternoon, a long injustice was finally, mercifully righted when Bert Blyleven was voted permanent enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His election came in his 14th year of eligibility, leading to the obvious question: what took the voters so long?

The facts show that at the time he was first eligible in 1998, Blyleven was the best eligible pitcher not in the Hall of Fame at that point. Now that, of course, does not in itself mean he should have been enshrined. However, with his statistical achievements over a storied career, the man known as “the Dutchman” do to his having been born in Holland should certainly have been enshrined early in his eligibility.

Instead of early enshrinement, Blyleven found himself being named on only 17.55% of the necessary 75% of the voters ballots that first year. By the 2nd year of his eligibility, Ryan was elected to the Hall, and Blyleven had dropped to just 14.1% of the voters support.

Voters then seemed to begin slowly evaluating Blyleven’s stats and his worthiness. He had climbed to over 35% of the voters by 2004, and by 2006 he had received 53.3% of the voters ballots. No one who has ever received more than 50% has failed to eventually become enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and Blyleven’s support continued to rise as more and more voters began to realize the injustice of his having been passed over for so long.

The ridiculousness of what is running through the minds of some voters is a topic for another, lengthier article. Suffice it to say that during the period in which Blyleven was being passed over for enshrinement, votes were being cast for players who had no business receiving the support from any voter who knows what they are doing.

Good but obviously unworthy players such as Walt Weiss, Rick Dempsey, John Candelaria, and Steve Sax received votes for the Hall of Fame. Phillies fans will be happy to know that some voter in consecutive years cast ballots for John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, and Darren Daulton. Nice players all. Hall of Famers, none. Ludicrous.

Finally the voters have gotten it right, although it says here that Bert Blyleven, who has gone on to a colorful 2nd career in the game as a broadcaster for his beloved Twins, should still have received even more than the 79.7% of the vote that he did eventually receive. He will enter the Hall of Fame officially in ceremonies this coming summer that will also honor 2nd baseman Roberto Alomar and former Phils GM Pat Gillick.

Now the question will turn to the next Blyleven, candidates who are worthy of selection but who have not yet gained admittance to baseball’s most exclusive club where less than 1% of those who have ever played the professional game have managed to enter. The Hall of Fame voters take up the cases next year of players such as Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell and Lee Smith, all of whom would have joined both Alomar and Blyleven on my own personal ballot this past year.