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Sen. Franken's Floor Statement on Bert Blyleven's Induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame

Thursday, July 28, 2011

(As Prepared for Delivery)

M. President, I rise today to pay tribute to former Minnesota Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven, who this week received his sport's highest honor when he was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

To Bert, I offer hearty and well-deserved congratulations.

To the rest of the baseball world, I ask this question: what took so long?

In the 14 years since he first became eligible for the Hall of Fame, we in Minnesota all assumed that with his rare talent and Hall-of-Fame numbers, Bert was a shoo-in. And for many of those 14 years, he was considered the best player never to have been inducted.

I am proud to say, as a Minnesotan and a lifelong Twins fan, that this year Bert Blyleven was officially voted into the Hall of Fame.

People in Minnesota all know that Bert belongs on the distinguished list of Minnesota Twins already in the Hall of Fame: Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett, as well as two other baseball greats who grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota and played with the Twins later in their careers, Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield.

Each of them had Hall of Fame Careers, and now Bert has finally joined them in the Hall.

Bert pitched 22 seasons in the major leagues, eleven of them for the Twins, but he also took his talents to Texas, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and California.

During his career:
• He won 287 games;
• He struck out an amazing 3,701 batters, and is 5th on the all-time career strikeout list. That's more career strikeouts than baseball greats Tom Seaver, Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson, Greg Maddux, Cy Young, or even his boyhood idol Sandy Koufax;
• He pitched 60 shutouts and led the league in shutouts three times;
• He had a career Earned Run Average of just 3.31;
• He pitched 242 complete games, something that would be unheard for pitchers today; and
• He played on two World Champion teams, in both Minnesota and in Pittsburgh.

For Twins fans, we all know Bert was a major part of the Twins 1987 World Series championship team, which we all revere for finally bringing a World Championship to our state.

Bert mentioned in his acceptance speech on Sunday that he is the first Hall of Famer born in Holland. He moved to California as a child and became interested in baseball by watching Sandy Koufax pitch for the Dodgers. His father, Joe, also a baseball fan, built him a pitcher's mound in the backyard where he developed one of the best curveballs in baseball history.

Bert finished his playing career in 1992. In 1996, he rejoined the Twins in the broadcast booth, where for many years, he and Dick Bremer have become familiar voices to Twins fans all over the upper Midwest. I love nothing more than watching a Twins game on TV and listening to Dick and Bert, who in my humble opinion are an authoritative and thoroughly entertaining broadcast team.

During broadcasts, Bert has created a phenomenon using his telestrator to circle Twins fans who are holding signs that catch Bert's attention. Today, there is no higher honor than for a Twins fan to be circled by Bert, and every game is packed with fans holding signs that say simply: "Circle Me Bert."

It was great to see that Bert was joined at Sunday's induction ceremony by his wife Gayle, their children, Bert's siblings, and his mother Jenny. During his speech Bert spoke about his father, Joe, who died in 2004 of Parkinson's disease, saying "I know he's up there right now looking down."

In memory of his father, Bert and his wife Gayle started the "Circle Me Bert" website to raise research money for the National Parkinson Foundation Minnesota. That says volumes about Bert Blyleven.

So, once again Bert, as a lifelong Twins fan, thank you, and congratulations. After 14 years of waiting, "you are hereby Circled" by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, where generations of fans from Minnesota and around the world will know of your career and of your amazing contributions to the game of baseball.

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