Marney's Bert-day blog
Posted: January 5, 2011, 10 p.m. CT
By MARNEY GELLNER
FOX Sports North
What a day. I have just experienced the single most memorable afternoon of my 14-year professional career. We were with Bert Blyleven when he got the call from the Hall!
Camera guy Ralph and I arrived at Bert's house in Fort Myers today just before noon. We brought Twins media relations guru Dustin Morse with us, as well as a freelance photographer we hired from Fort Myers. But that was it. No other media was at Bert's house.
It was a little awkward to discuss with Bert and his wife Gayle about where we would set up and what time this might happen and all of the "what-if" possibilities, because nobody wanted to jinx it. It was a sensitive subject! But Bert and Gayle are wonderful and welcoming people, and they gladly opened their home to us. We set up outside on their patio, next to the pool.
Bert was told that if he was voted in, he would get the call at 1:30 p.m. ET. I kept checking the clock. 12:15 � 12:35 � 12:50 ... I can't imagine what it must have been like for Bert!
Bert, Gayle and one friend were inside his house while we were outside doing microphone checks and other technical things at 1:05 p.m. ET. All of a sudden Gayle ran to the patio door and yelled, "You guys -- he's in!"
We were stunned. Not that he got in, but that the call came 25 minutes earlier than we were expecting. And literally as soon as Gayle finished blurting out the good news, Bert was standing in the doorway, on the phone with someone from Cooperstown with tears in his eyes.
He was literally STILL ON THE CALL when he walked out and shook Dustin's hand, shook Ralph's hand and gave me a kiss (we're tight like that) while he was saying his thank-yous to Cooperstown. It was something I will never, ever forget. Here is a man who waited 14 years to get this call, and instead of retreating privately into his house, he's out on the patio with us. I literally had goose bumps running up and down both arms.
After a couple of minutes, Bert did go back inside to make phone calls. He called his mother first, who told him, "You were always in my Hall of Fame."
Ten minutes later, Bert was back out on the patio with a bottle of champagne and a glass for everyone -- even the freelance photographer whom Bert had never met. Bert insisted that everyone take a glass and raise a toast! And again, it's like 1:20 in the afternoon now (ET) and the rest of the world wouldn't even find out the news for another 40 minutes. Bert made us feel so special, like we were part of his big moment!
After heading back inside to make more phone calls, the itinerary kicked in. Bert must have done 25 interviews today, but we were the first. He chatted by phone with Jim Kaat, Jim Perry and Tom Kelly, all of whom wanted to send Bert their sincerest congratulations. In our studio we had Roy Smalley and Tim Laudner with Anthony LaPanta. I asked Bert about finally getting the call, his conversation with his mom and what his dad would say if he were alive. Bert said, "He would cry. We would cry together."
Then I handed Bert a baseball, something he had signed literally thousands of times, but had never signed with those three special letters behind his name. And right there on live television, he signed "Bert Blyleven, HOF" for the very first time. That baseball will be on display at Target Field this summer, and is now the property of the Twins. Why? Because I didn't have time to sneak it into my bag. Just kidding!
Bert then headed to the Twins' minor league facility for a formal (or as formal as Bert gets) press conference and several more interviews. It was already a whirlwind day, and we were only about three hours into it! He and Gayle caught a 6:20 p.m. flight to New York City, where they have meetings, dinners and schmoozing with all kinds of baseball and HOF types. The next couple of days will be pure joy for them.
It was an absolute honor and privilege to be with Bert today. I have known him for years, and he has always been a fun, friendly and humble man. Today was one of the biggest days of his baseball life, and he couldn't wait to share it with everyone around him.
I am so proud to call Bert a friend. I feel complete joy and happiness for him, and I know there are so many others who are thrilled for his Hall of Fame honor. I am also happy to report that becoming baseball royalty has not changed Bert Blyleven.
See more pictures at Marney's Facebook page.