Blyleven falls five votes shy of Cooperstown
Pitcher's voting numbers jump from 62.7 to 74.2 percent
MINNEAPOLIS -- Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame hopes fell short once again -- this time, excruciatingly short.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame election results were announced Wednesday afternoon and in his 13th year on the ballot, Blyleven missed gaining entry by five votes. He received 400 votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America (74.2 percent). Players need 75 percent or 405 votes this year to be elected."Five votes short is a little on the sad side," Blyleven said when reached at his home in Fort Myers, Fla. "But I'm proud that it jumped up 12 percent from last year, and I really appreciate that." Andre Dawson was the lone player elected into the Hall by the BBWAA this year, earning induction in his ninth year on the ballot. Dawson received 77.9 percent of the votes, with 420 of the 539 ballots including his name. But Blyleven wasn't the only player to fall just short of making the cut. For the first time in BBWAA balloting, two candidates failed to gain election by fewer than 10 votes. Second baseman Roberto Alomar, in his first year on the ballot, received 397 votes (73.7 percent). They were the most votes for a first-year candidate without being elected. "I was hoping that three of us would be elected," Blyleven said. "First off, congratulations to Andre Dawson on getting in. But I thought Roberto Alomar would go in as well. I thought it would be cool to go in with him because I kind of watched him grow up when I played with his dad in Texas. Hopefully we'll go in together next year now."
Blyleven said that he received a phone call from Hall of Famer and former Twins great Harmon Killebrew just moments after the results were announced on Wednesday afternoon. He told Blyleven, 'Hang in there, you're going to be in there.'"That's nice when your peers, like Harmon, take time out of their day to tell you that your time is coming," said Blyleven, whose vote totals jumped from 62.7 percent last year to 74.2 percent in 2010. "Through all this, with guys like Rich Lederer of baseballanalysts.com and Bill Hillsman [who runs bertbelongs.com] in the Twin Cities, I've met a lot of nice people who have been in my corner. That's the most positive thing. Family and friends have sent so many texts, so many e-mails today." For many people around baseball, it seems to be a puzzle as to why Blyleven has yet to be elected into Cooperstown. In a career that spanned from 1970-92 with the Twins, Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels, Blyleven ranks near the top of almost every important all-time pitching category. The pitcher's 287 wins place him 27th on the all-time list. He is fifth in career strikeouts, with 3,701, and ninth in career shutouts, with 60. Of the top 20 pitchers on the career shutouts list, Blyleven is the only one not in the Hall of Fame. "Blyleven should be in," Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer told MLB.com. "The writers are the reason you get in -- and I don't want to disparage writers, because if they hadn't voted for me I wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. But it's almost like they forget how good Bert was. "He was just a marvelous player and pitcher -- all those innings. He has more wins than I do, more shutouts. He has a lot more losses, but I think the shutouts are significant. For Bert, this is bittersweet in that you get so close to 75 percent, but he certainly belongs in the Hall of Fame. It looks to me that more writers are understanding that." Those who haven't voted for Blyleven point to him having just one 20-win season, two All-Star bids and no Cy Young Award during his career. In the key categories -- strikeouts, wins and ERA -- Blyleven only once led his league in any of them. That came with the Twins in 1985, when he led the American League in strikeouts (206). "You can't always go off of wins," Blyleven said in an interview with the MLB Network. "You have to go off of performance and if you kept your club in the game." Former Twins pitcher and St. Paul native Jack Morris continues to wait for his call to the Hall of Fame as well, but he also saw an increase in his vote total this year. In his 10th year on the ballot, the right-hander received 52.3 percent of the vote, which was a significant jump from his 44 percent in 2009. Players have 15 years of eligibility on the ballots, so Blyleven has two more years where members of the BBWAA can vote him into the Hall. And while he fell just short of the vaunted 75 percent mark again, the expectation now is that next year will be the time that Blyleven could finally earn his ticket to Cooperstown. "A gentleman from Cooperstown called me before they made the announcement and told me I was five votes short. We couldn't help but laugh together," Blyleven said. "I'm happy for Andre Dawson. I've come close. I'm getting closer. Maybe next year will be the year."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.