brewers baseball and things

hot foot

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I wasn’t alone. Many of us knew about Bert Blyleven’s curve ball.  He was pitching for the Cleveland Indians. We slipped past the senior citizen ticker takers towards the Indian’s dugout. It was on the third base side of County Stadium.

bert

bert

A sure bet way to get a player’s autograph is to offer him something unique to sign, something they haven’t seen before or something that strikes a cord in their personal lives. I had heard about fan who offered Bill “Spaceman” Lee a Betty Crocker Brownie box to sign. Worked like a charm flying high.

I only had a baseball and my mouth. I leaned over the waist-high red fence separating players from fans and poked my head into the Indian’s dugout. “Mr. Blyleven. Mr. Blyleven,” I yelled. “Excuse me, Mr. Blyleven. ”

Blyleven was seated on the opposite end of the dugout, but he heard me and apparently sent hand signals to his messenger-Neil Heaton another pitcher for the Indians. I must have been fixated on Blyleven because I never noticed Heaton inching closer to me.

Heat---on

Heat—on

“Son, excuse me, son, Heaton said. “Your shoelaces are on fire.” Sure enough. My shoelaces were on fire. I had been hot footed and at 11 years young, my initial reaction was embarrassment, but I soon learned that Bert Blyleven was more than the king of curve balls. He had also earned the nickname-Frying Dutchman because of his Dutch origins and habit of lighting players shoelaces on fire.

Blyleven eventually signed the ball and gave me a long look, right into my eyes. Good thing I was shy. He mighta burned my retinas too.

Blyleven may be the only player or pitcher to ever campaign his way into the baseball hall of fame and his efforts finally met with success in 2011 after 14  stints on the ballot.

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Author: Steve Myers

I grew up in Milwaukee and have been a Milwaukee Brewers baseball fan for as long as I can remember.

8 thoughts on “hot foot

  1. As a kid, I never knew at the time what a cut-up Blyleven was. It wasn’t until years later that I began to hear stories like this about him for the first time. Great story. I’d also read, in “Cooperstown Confidential,” that Goose Gossage pushed hard for his induction. There may have been others, too.
    -Bill

    • Thanks Bill. Blyleven could also be downright intimidating. He had that dry sense of humor. We never knew if he was being serious.

      I kinda like this pushing hard for one’s induction. On the legitimate side is Gossage and Blyleven and as you mentioned, probably many others. And then on the more comical side are players who absurdly sing their own praises and in doing so win over so many hearts for not taking themselves so seriously. Of course, I have Bob Uecker in mind.

      • I wonder how he gave hotfoots in Holland, where they all wear wooden shoes. Wow, that would burn fast, wouldn’t it?

        What my understanding about Blyleven was was that he was a real prick. That’s what I read in some magazine. He was with the Pirates at the time. I think it was Sport Magazine, or maybe it was Inside Sports. I don’t remember. But from what I’ve read about him, he was known to be a real asswipe, which was one of the reasons that the Pirates got rid of him.

        Maybe he just didn’t fit in with the Pirates, but he was liked on other teams that he pitched for. Maybe. But think about how many times he was traded. He pitched for Minnesota twice, Texas, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and California. His longest stint with any one team was the first years of his career with the Twins—- six years. Okay, in a 22 year career, that’s not necessarily a lot of trades, really, I guess. He was no Bobo Newsom or Bobby Bonds when it came to being traded.

        But it might say SOMETHING about him. Wouldn’t you think?

        Glen

  2. I just want to add that I just looked up the trades and who Blyleven was traded for. No one particularly good, considering that he was a future Hall Of Famer. I get the feeling that these teams would have traded him for a sack of shit just to get rid of him.

    Glen

    • Well, I gotta applaud your idea and insight Glen and then the evidence you dug up regarding who he was traded for or who he wasn’t traded for.

      All I can say about him is that he was intimidating. Of course, I only had the one experience and he sent a gopher-Neil Heaton to do his burn work.

      I would guess that he was too much for some-maybe most teams to handle. Kind of like Bill Lee..opinions on everything under the sun. Lee got booted off the Expos after bitching to manager Jim Fanning about Rodney Scott being traded.

      Lee called Fanning on the phone from a bar across the street of Olympic Stadium and challenged him to a fist fight. Well, next year Lee was pitching in Three Rivers Quebec and no team was interested anymore. He says they blacklisted him from baseball.

      It’s hard to say Glen, but I have the impression that the MLB scene is filled with old blood types that don’t take too well to different views despite all the rhetoric.

      But most importantly, it’s always refreshing to hear your take on all topics. Thanks Glen!

      • I forgot to mention that I’ve heard Blyleven broadcast about a dozen or so Twins game on their Fox affiliate and yeh, he has opinions on just about everything. There’s appears to be no sheep in him.

      • Well, with Bill Lee, he spent a lot of years with the Red Sox.

        As for the fact that he was never picked up by another team again, it very well might have been that he challenged Fanning to a fist-fight. But let’s not forget Lennie Randle, who DID punch the crap out of his manager, Frank Luchessi, when he was on the Rangers. He was promptly sent to the Mets. THEY wanted him. He then spent some years with the Cubs and with the Mariners.

        As for Lee, maybe it was just because he was a non-conformist.

        Glen

        PS I was wrong. I just read that the Pirates got Blyleven from the Rangers in exchange for Al Oliver, a quality (and highly-underrated) ballplayer.

        But that was only one good player that he was traded for in all of those trades.

      • Yeh, Oliver does kind of put a twist into your theory. DOHHHH. I couldn’t resist. Sorry about that Glen.

        But seriously, it’s an interesting example you give with Lennie Randle especially the way you phrased it….”the Mets wanted him.” I think that’s the crux of the biscuit. If a team wants a player, they’re gonna go and get him no matter what his reputation is or what the league says about him. The player doesn’t always represent integrity and positive role models, but so be it.

        The Brewers took a lot of flack when they traded for Nyjer Morgan. He turned out to not only be a fan favorite, but a catalyst bringing the Brewers to the NLCS so they could once again lose again to the Cardinals.

        Or as Amanda Wurlitzer said in the first Bad News Bears movie, “if the guy (Kelly Leak) can play, let’s give him a chance.” or something like that.

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