Bert Blyleven tracer

In a recent broadcast, Twins color man Bert Blyleven commented on the recent dust-up between Zack Greinkeand Carlos Quentin. (Grienke hit Quentin with a pitch, Quentin ignored that fact that it was likely an accidental HBP, charged the mound and in the melee the highly paid pitcher broke his collarbone).

Anyhow, Blyleven noted that in his ba-zillion years pitching, no one ever charged the mound on him. He did, however, once charge the mound himself after getting hit by a pitch.

Let’s look this up.

Blyleven was hit by a pitch just twice in his career, so this is fairly easy to check up. As it happens, he was ejected in neither game, which is unexpected. However, the wonder and glory that is Retrosheet helps fill us in on the details. Its recaps don’t simply record what the plays were, but what incidental drama also happened.

It was May 26, 1980 and Blyleven’s defending world champion Pirates were playing the Phillies.

The fun began in the bottom of the first. With two out and none on, Blyleven threw a brush-back pitch to Phillies star Mike Schmidt. He didn’t hit Schmidt, but ended up walking him. Then up came Greg Luzinski, who also walked after surviving a brush-back. Blyleven escaped his self-created jam without allowing any runs, and the game went on.

Schmidt came back to the plate to lead off the third. Again, Blyleven brushed him back. Schmidt had had enough of this, and took a few steps to the mound. He didn’t go much further, but both benches cleared. Things cooled down, and no punches were thrown. Blyleven ended up walking Schmidt (again) and Schmidt scored on a homer by teammate Garry Maddox.

Shortly after, Blyleven came up to bat to lead off the fourth for Pittsburgh. Nothing happened though; he just grounded out. But the game wasn’t over.

In the fifth, the Phillies had a new pitcher in, reliever Kevin Saucier. He got some payback for the club, hitting Pirates star slugger Willie Stargell.

Next inning, Blyleven came up again. With two out and none on, Saucier plunked him. That’s when Blyleven charged the mound. It’s odd that the pitcher who started it would be the one to charge, but I guess he felt the matter was over once Stargell was hit. However, according to the Retrosheet account, he did a bit more than just charge the mound—he picked up the bat and charged the mound. Yikes!

A big brawl broke out with both benches cleared. After a while, the fight appeared to have stopped, butr it caught fire again with Phillies bullpen coach Mike Ryan in the middle. The umpires eventually restored order.

Somehow, Blyleven wasn’t ejected. For that matter, neither was Ryan. Instead, Pittsburgh outfielder Lee Lacy and Philadelphia coach Herm Starrette got the thumb from Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey.

The game kept on, with Blyleven lasting until the eighth inning. The Phillies rallied to win on a walk-off single by Larry Bowa in the ninth.

So why did Blyleven go after Schmidt like that? It was the first Phillies-Pirates game of the year, so there was nothing that happened recently between the clubs. Schmidt did a good job against Blyleven over their careers, but there was nothing in their immediate past that would suggest this.

However, the last Phillies-Pirates game of 1979 had a very odd twist. On Sept. 20, 1979, Phillies outfielder Keith Moreland hit a fly to left that third base umpire Eric Gregg lost in the lights. He saw the Philadelphia Ball Girl jump up and down saying “home run!” so he ruled it a home run.

But it wasn’t a homer. It wasn’t even close to a homer. The Pirates raised all holy hell about it, and the umpire crew had a conference and in a rarity, decided to overturn the call.

Now it was Philadelphia’s turn to spit nails. Manager Dallas Green argued the call, earned an ejection, and threw some equipment on the field. Also throwing equipment on the field was star third baseman Mike Schmidt—the same guy Blyleven threw inside to next time they faced. So that must be the back story.

The umpire in that 1979 game was Doug Harvey, the same man who refrained from ejecting Blyleven in 1980. I’m not sure if that helps explain why Blyleven wasn’t ejected, but it is interesting.

So Blyleven’s memory holds up well about his career as a mound charger.

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  1. Chris Jaffe said...

    I forgot to mention – the Phillies lodged an official protest over that 1979 game.  It was denied, but there was a lot of anger over that contest.

  2. Murray Passarieu said...

    Retrosheet says Blyleven picked up the BALL not the bat. A little different, although he could have done damage with the ball too.

  3. Jesus said...

    From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – May 27, 1980,5191863

    Blyleven tried to pick up the baseball, apparently to fire it back to Saucier.  Harvey grappled with Blyleven, grabbing his right arm. By this time, players from both benches were on the field, and, this time, they were angry. 

    There was a mob scene on the mound and it seemed that some Pirate tackled Saucier. …

    The best brawl was yet to come. 

    According to Harvey, Pirate utilityman Lee Lacy started shouting at an unidentified Phillie.

    “I told Lacy to stop trying to instigate things,” Harvey said. “He was cursing, and I threw him out of the game. The next thing I knew, Herm Starrette (Phillies pitching coach) was shouting at someone, and I told him to stop instigating. He kept yelling, and I threw him out of the game.”

    …According to Lacy and Bill Madlock, Ryan started the biggest fight of the evening. After it ended, some players were seen rubbing their faces where they had been hit by punches.

    Harvey said that, under the rules, he could not eject Saucier for hitting Blyleven.

    “I must give the pitcher a warning first…”

    From Beaver County Times – May 27, 1980,6115141

    Bang! Blyleven spun from the plate and dropped his bat. He paused for a moment. Both teams were already on the top steps of the dugout. Blyleven glared at Saucier and started for the mounds.

    He took three steps and noticed the baseball in his path. He picked up the ball, and if it weren’t for Harvey grabbing his arm, he would have fired it back at Saucier. The ball squired from Blyleven’s hand. He broke Harvey’s grip and raced to the mound and Saucier. Saucier dropped his glove, ducked his head and soon bodies were banging and tumbling all over the place; some dancing, some swinging, some rolling on the ground.

    From The News-Dispatch – May 27, 1980,3523248

    …the Pirate picked up the ball and charged the mound. He was restrained by plate umpire Doug Harvey and catcher Boone, but several Pirates pounded Saucier and several others were punched.

    These wire service accounts add a helmet twist:
    The Milwaukee Sentinel – May 27, 1980,5060330

    …Blyleven, who threw his helmet at Saucier…
    Lakeland Ledger – May 27, 1980 phillies&pg=5135,4812514

    The Montreal Gazette – May 27, 1980,3207480
    has a picture of with this caption:
    A security guard rushes onto the field as Phils and Bucs get into fight after Bucs’ pitcher Bert Blyleven was hit by a pitch.

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