February 06, 2006

Two Tickets to Oblivion, Please

Discussing the careers of Steve Bedrosian and Bert Blyleven isn’t funny; the numbers they put up aren’t a joke: Bedrosian was a dominant closer for both bad teams and good, and Blyleven was a consistent winner for consistently bad teams (with the exception of the 1979 Pirates and the 1987 Twins). But ask any casual baseball fan who they are or what they accomplished and I would bet you that nobody would recognize either name (okay, maybe a slim minority would know at least one of the two, an even slimmer minority would know both and maybe one or two people could tell you—without consulting baseball-reference.com—that Bedrosian was a skilled and intimidating fireman and that Blyleven threw a no-hitter and won nearly 300 games in his career).

Truth be told, I don’t know very much about either of them. I know that Blyleven is from Holland, which I’ve always found totally beyond cool—that someone from the Netherlands became a fantastic baseball star (which, if you consider The Netherlands’ standing in world sport, isn’t very surprising at all). But after that my knowledge of him stops. I don’t know if he was just born there and moved somewhere else where the weather was more baseball friendly, if he speaks with an accent or if, in the off-season, he enjoys sitting on a rattan kitchen chair in his dusty—if colorfully painted—clapboard country house out in a field where the wild summer grass has turned to straw and drink strong tea and smoke hashish with his postman friend with the bristled mustache. Perhaps they became friends because he too has a bristled mustache and they began to talk about how much they admired each other’s careful grooming. Again, I don’t know anything about him.

I only know slightly more about Bedrosian. With a name like that, I almost know for certain that he’s Armenian. And if he’s of Armenian descent, that means that if he grew up in the United States, he probably grew up in one of two places: Los Angeles, California, or Watertown, Massachusetts. I grew up in the town next to Watertown, and used to take the bus from Watertown Square to Harvard Square all the time (the electric trackless trolley line #71 along Mt. Auburn Street). The route goes right through the heart of Watertown, and I remember that there’s a funeral home along the way called Bedrosian’s. I’m not suggesting that the family was related to Steve, I’m just saying that it fit, and it would fit if it turned out that he was from there. It turns out that Steve is actually from Methuen, but in this story, that’s sort of beside the point.

The real point, if I can finally get to it, is that these two guys (Bedrosian and Blyleven) will probably never make the Hall of Fame and will most likely cap two careers—one good and one better than good—by fading into oblivion, the only memory that they had played at all coming from the fleeting memories of their regional fans and by their baseball cards.


Anonymous said...

Seeing Blyleven in his gold Pirates uni brings backs memories.

Kudos on your blog. Keep it up!

Chris said...

Blyleven will probably be in the Hall of Fame someday. The BBWAA still haven't elected a pitcher since 1999 (Nolan Ryan) and they are not going to wait until 2012-13 (or whenever Clemens / Unit / Maddux become eligible) to pick another one. Blyleven led all starting pitchers in the January vote, and the best starter who comes on the ballot in the next four years is Bret Saberhagen. So it seems inevitable that he will make it.

Anonymous said...

I was always amazed that Bert Blyleven wasn't more well-known. I spent many days of childhood marveling over his amazing statistics. He also looked like a cool guy, if not a bit overserious or distant.

I sort of thought of both Bert Blyleven and Goose Gossage as the poor man's Nolan Rylan. I don't know if that makes any sense or not.

Thanks for the great blog.

Anonymous said...

Bert is probably best known for his Berman-given nickname, Bert "Be Home" Bly-leven. I don't believe Bedrosian has a Berman nickname, and thus, he is not as funny nor noteworthy in the annals of slightly-above-average 1980's pitchers. This is a stretch, but perhaps if Steve had a nickname of Steve "Life is no" Bed (of)Ros(e) ian", perhaps he'd be remembered more frequently.

Don said...

Bert has also been the TV color commentator for Twins games the last 9 seasons. Seems like a good guy, and no he doesn't talk with an accent :)

I've actually decided to start collecting him as a PSA Master Set. It gives me something a little easier to accomplish than the Ripken set I'm working on.

may the pop be with you said...

Blyleven was elected to the Hall of Fame this year, of course. But, clearly, your point is valid because it took him 15 years, and he did, in fact, pitch for mostly terrible teams in small markets.