November 18, 2019

The day Bert Blyleven beaned a batter over a labor dispute

As the baseball offseason rolls on, the need for content for this blog rolls on, too, and that means reading various books about the game to find an interesting Twins-related nugget.

In 2010, Jason Turbow and Michael Duca published “The Baseball Codes,” a book about the unwritten rules of the game regarding a number of topics, including beanballs, sign stealing (see the current Houston Astros controversy) and bench-clearing brawls. The all-timer? Atlanta vs. San Diego on Aug. 12, 1984. Look it up.

But what caught my eye was this anecdote:

The personal reasons pitchers have for throwing at opponents are myriad. Bert Blyleven hit Baltimore’s Phil Bradley in 1990 because of Bradley’s hard-line stance in labor negotiations that, in Blyleven’s opinion, prolonged settlement of the 32-day lockout that delayed the start of the season. ‘It infuriated Blyleven because he was older and concerned about pension time,’ said a source in the Orioles organization.

Although that lockout delayed the start of the season, no regular season games were missed. Blyleven was near the end of his career. He last pitched for the Twins in 1988, a season in which he lost 17 games, and then was traded that same season to the California Angels. He signed a free-agent deal with the Angels, then won 17 games in 1989.

Bert threw a ball to me and my son at Target Field on Aug. 17, 2017.


The Angels hit the road in early May 1990 to play the Orioles, then returned home to play them about the middle of the month. Blyleven beaned Bradley in both series, although I think it was the second series in which Bert wanted to send a message.

In the first series, Blyleven took the mound for the Angels, opposite Jeff Ballard of the Orioles, for the third game of a four-game series. Bradley was hitting lead off for the O’s, so one might think that Bert would drill Phil right out of the gates. But that did not happen: Bradley grounded out to the second baseman to record the first out of the inning. In the bottom of the third inning, Bert did bean Bradley, but with two men on and one out, that seems more like a mistake than intentional. In the end, three Halo pitchers combined to shut out the O’s, 3-0. Blyleven struck out eight over six innings.

In the second series, Blyleven took the mound, opposite Jay Tibbs in Game 1 of a three-game set in Anaheim. And this time Bert didn’t waste any time. Bradley, hitting lead off again, worked an 0-2 count before Bert beaned him. This time, though, the O’s won, 6-5. Tibbs got the win, while Bert exited with the no-decision. Blyleven last pitched in 1992. Bradley last played in the majors in 1990. He spent a season in Japan, then wrapped up his career in the minor leagues.

Extra innings…

-Twins pitcher Jake Odorizzi will remain with the Twins for at least another season after he accepted the team’s qualifying offer of $17.8 million.

-Front office executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine also will remain with the team through the 2024 season.

Sources: The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca; CNN;; MLB Trade Rumors.


Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.