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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Bert Blyleven was more composed but moved nonetheless as he stared at his 85-year-old mother and reminisced about his late father as he was inducted on Sunday into the Baseball Hall of Fame
Blyleven, the first Dutch-born player to be enshrined, thanked his parents for the drive and determination he needed to succeed. Drafted by Minnesota in the third round of the 1969 amateur draft, he became the youngest pitcher in the majors when the Twins called him up June 2, 1970, after just 21 minor league starts.
Blyleven, whose amazing curveball frustrated batters in his 22-year career, finished with 287 wins, 3,701 strikeouts, 60 shutouts and a pair of World Series rings — in 1979 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and 1987 in his second stint with the Twins.
Still, his path toward the Hall was a slow, steep one — he drew the backing of only 14.1 percent one year — but on his 14th try became the first pure starting pitcher to get selected by the BBWAA since Nolan Ryan in 1999.
Blyleven’s father, Joe, who died of Parkinson’s in 2004, fell in love with baseball and the Dodgers after the family moved to Southern California in the late 1950s and built a mound in the backyard, the genesis of his son’s Hall of Fame career.
“I wish he was here,” said Blyleven, who in the past had regretted not being selected for the Hall while his father was still alive. “But you know, mom, I know he’s up there looking down right now. Mommy, I love you.”
Baseball has lost several giants of the game in recent years, and Blyleven remembered the ones that helped him along the way.
“I know in my heart that Harmon Killebrew, Willie Stargell, Bob Feller, Chuck Tanner and Kirby Puckett are looking down at all of us right now,” Blyleven said, adding a special thought for Hall of Famer Gary Carter, who’s battling brain cancer. “Gary, keep battling the way that you always have.”
The starting pitcher was elected on his 14th try.
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