MINNEAPOLIS - It's been a long journey for Bert Blyleven to reach Cooperstown. After a 22-year playing career, he waited for nearly 20 years after retirement before being inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Saturday, he made a slightly shorter trip.
Blyleven made the jog from the outfield to the pitcher's mound at Target Field and had his No. 28 retired by the Minnesota Twins.
The righthanded pitcher joined six other players who have had their numbers retired by the Twins.
Harmon Killebrew (3), Rod Carew (29), Tony Oliva (6), Kent Hrbek (14) and Kirby Puckett (34) are all former Minnesota greats who have had their numbers retired.
Jackie Robinson's No. 42 is retired by every MLB franchise.
Blyleven, a well-known jokester, high-stepped it in to the pregame ceremony from leftfield, stopping midway to put his hands on his knees and do some mock panting.
Many younger Twins fans may only be familiar with the colorful Blyleven through his television work with the Twins.
But his career as a big leaguer was no joke.
His 3,701 strikeouts are fifth-most in the history of the game. His 60 career shutouts place him ninth all-time.
He was a bulldog, winning 15 games 1-0. Although he played for some awfully bad teams, he was undeniably a winner.
He was a World Series champion with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979 and with the Twins eight years later.
And Blyleven, like all great pitchers, had a signature pitch.
His was the curveball. Now a whole new generation of Twins fans will get a chance to throw the yakker like Blyleven.
To coincide with his number being retired, the Twins gave away baseballs on Saturday with explicit instructions for both grip and delivery.
And while many future ballplayers might try to throw like Blyleven, no one will do it in a No. 28 Twins uniform.
Chris Bieri is the sports editor for the Minot Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.