Yes, yes, yes. John Boehner is the new Speaker. Congratulations. Now for the important stuff: Rikalbert Bert Blyleven is finally & officially a member of the most elite fraternity in sports: the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This ends what’s been the longest ongoing travesty in modern sports history. That Bert wasn’t picked a decade ago tells me that too many baseball writers don’t have a flipping clue about Bert’s greatness.

I was reminded today that people used to criticize him for tipping his curve by sticking his tongue out. On FSN, Roy Smalley summed it up perfectly, saying “That’s like saying Nolan Ryan tipped his fastball by grunting.” Mr. Smalley, you’re exactly right. It wasn’t like a hitter was going to hit Ryan’s fastball or Bert’s curve when they had it working.

I can recite Bert’s impressive numbers from memory: 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts, 60 shutouts, 242 complete games during a 23 year career. That only tells part of Bert’s story.

Bert was a great teammate, possibly the greatest prankster in MLB history. He also took alot of pressure off Frankie ‘Sweet Music’ Viola, which allowed Mr. Viola to relax and blossom into the Twins’ co-ace in their first Twins’ World Championship season.

TK will tell you that he was a better manager anytime he handed the ball to Bert, which is typical of TK. What TK, Kent Hrbek and Tim Laudner will tell you is that Bert was as great a competitor as has ever played the game. How great a competitor?

In Bert’s last season with the Texas Rangers, Bert was out for different parts of the season with a groin injury. In September, he pitched a game against the Angels. (Back then, they were known as the California Angels.

Late in the game, the eighth inning, Bert reinjured himself, prompting a visit by the pitching coach. The coach asked Bert how he was. Bert’s simple reply was “Look at the scoreboard.” Bert carried a no-hitter into the eighth. The message was sent. That’s the night Bert threw his only no-hitter.

I remember watching the 87 World Series. ABC assigned Al Michaels, Tim McCarver & Jim Palmer to cover the Series. In Game Two, Bert’s curve was really working. I remember Palmer ridiculing the Cards for “sitting on Bert’s curve.” Palmer added that “It’s not like they’re going to hit it anyway.”

At the end of this, I’m still left with this thought: How the BBWAA didn’t elect him to the Hall of Fame a decade ago is one of life’s biggest misteries, one of life’s greatest injustices.

Congratulations, Bert. You’ve been a Hall of Famer in my mind for years. It’s great that the BBWAA finally noticed and gave you this richly deserved honor.

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