Bert Blyleven was raised in Garden Grove, California. He became interested in baseball as a young boy watching Sandy Koufax pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bert starred on the Santiago High School baseball team, also running cross country to build up his stamina and leg strength. He was drafted straight out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in the third round in 1969, where after only 21 minor league starts he found himself called up to the Majors at age 19, June 2, 1970. In his first season, his sharp curveball helped him to ten victories and he was named AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News.
Blyleven's early career with the Twins was not always pleasant as he was hounded by critics and fans and suffered with a dismal Minnesota Twins team. Becoming more vocal, Blyleven was traded to the Texas Rangers on June 1, 1976. He pitched well with the Rangers, having a 2.76 ERA in his first season and throwing a no-hitter against the California Angels on September 22, 1977, just two weeks after being sidelined with a groin injury.
On December 8, 1977, Blyleven and John Milner were traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of the first four-team trade in Major League Baseball history. With the Pirates, he led the team in ERA, strikeouts and complete games in 1978 and helped them to a World Series victory in 1979.
Blyleven became disgruntled with the Pirates and threatened to retire during the 1980 season if he was not traded. Eventually, the Pirates did trade him to the Cleveland Indians on December 9, 1980. Blyleven sat out most of the 1982 season with an elbow injury and struggled again in 1983, but came back in 1984 with one of his best seasons: a 19-7 record with a 2.87 ERA. He missed a second 20-win season that year when he was forced to miss a couple of starts after breaking his foot when joking around in the bullpen. Blyleven was unhappy playing for the lackluster Indians and forced a trade back to the Twins, where he passed the 3,000-strikeout mark and helped the Twins to a 1987 World Series victory.
Blyleven went to the California Angels in 1989 and pitched a 2.73 ERA for a 17-5 record in his first season, but he missed the entire 1991 season following rotator cuff surgery. He came back in 1992, but was mostly unproductive, going 8-12 with a 4.74 ERA. He retired following that season with a career 287-250 record with 3,701 strikeouts (only 16 other pitchers have at least 3,000 career strikeouts) and a 3.31 ERA. He tried out for the Twins again in the spring of 1993, but did not make the squad, making his retirement official.
Blyleven was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2011 after receiving 79.7% of the vote on his 14th attempt. "It’s been 14 years of praying and waiting,”? he said on a conference call from Fort Myers, Fla. "I thank the baseball writers of America for finally getting it right." Blyleven was the first Dutch-born player inducted.
Blyleven was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame in 2002, and was chosen to the fan-elected "Wendy's- Minnesota Twins All-Metrodome Team" on July 28, 2009. On July 16, 2011 the Minnesota Twins formally retired Blyleven's number.