At long last, Minnesota Twins broadcaster and former player Bert Blyleven was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this year. If you are not familiar with him, Bert enjoyed a more-than-two-decade-long major league pitching career, posting 287 wins, 3,700 strikeouts and 60 shutouts. These are impressive stats, and, one would think, sufficient to guarantee a no-brainier Hall of Fame selection.
Bert, however, had to wait through 14 long years of eligibility. A 75 percent affirmative vote from the baseball writers association is required to gain entry. Year after year, Bert came up short, finally squeaking by in 2011 with 79.7 percent of the writers voting that he did belong. On the other hand, another player, in his first year of eligibility, was elected with a 90 percent vote total.
Why did Bert have to wait so long? I believe Bert could have used some large doses of PR advice during his time in the wilderness. Advice like, “Don’t whine incessantly on air and in the press every year you don’t make it, Bert”. Advice like, “ Your hell-raising, mooning, prankster reputation and the way you continue to talk about past exploits does not impress a stodgy, bound-by-tradition group like the baseball writers association.
Bert was know as the “hotfoot” king during his playing days, among other things, including his propensity to “break wind” in public at almost any time. He was once photographed wearing a T-shirt proclaiming his love of flatulence. In recent years, his broadcast partner at times comments on the quality of the air supply they share in the broadcast booth. I would expect a PR professional would have advised Bert to “give that a rest” while trying to help him with his Hall of Fame entrance difficulties.
Then there was the infamous 2006 on-air incident: It seems Bert thought he was taping a TV promo and dropped some inappropriate epitaphs on what was live television. This gaffe resulted in a seven game broadcast suspension and likely a few more years of Hall of Fame purgatory. I can hear a PR practitioner uttering, under his/her breath, “Can you say damage control or crisis management?” Bert, of course, did apologize, but then attributed the length of his suspension to “the FCC and that Janet Jackson thing at the Super Bowl.”
As one PR person told me long ago, “No matter what you do, sometimes you just can’t save someone from themselves.” I’ve had occasion to also use that quote over the years during some exasperating experiences. Anyway, I’m glad you finally made it in Bert. Too bad you had to wait so long.
Wayne Kranzler is the CEO of KK BOLD. He currently has no T-shirts proclaiming his love of flatulence.