Blyleven’s one-hitter announces his presence with Rangers

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Larkin Richards

Since the beginning of his baseball career, Bert Blyleven was known for his curveballs and one-of-a-kind pitches. That’s what guided him to one of the most memorable games of his baseball career.

During the middle of the 1976 season, in a trade with the Twins for four players and $250,000, the Texas Rangers acquired Blyleven and his rocket of an arm. In his first three outings with the Rangers, however, Blyleven absorbed three losses and allowed 16 earned runs in 26.1 innings.

But on June 21, 1976, a classic first day of summer, Blyleven found his form with a 10-inning one hitter. Although the air was cool, the 21,800 fans warmed the Oakland Coliseum up knowing the history the game could hold.

Blyleven had a chance of a no-hit game for the first four innings until first baseman Ken McMullen stepped up to the plate, connecting for a hit straight down the left field line to start the fifth. By the top of the ninth inning, the Rangers called on designated hitter Jeff Burroughs for his first sacrifice bunt.

“That should tell you how desperate I was for us to score a run,” Rangers manager Frank Lucchesi told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

After Blyleven allowed his first and only hit for the night, he shut down the Athletics the rest of the way. In the top of the 10th inning, Rangers' right fielder Tom Grieve smashed a homer for the first run of the game.

With a 1-0 lead, Blyleven closed the deal, retiring 17 of the last 19 batters.

“You’ll never know what a relief it was to get the first one under my belt,” Blyleven said. “I knew I was a better pitcher than what I’d showed up ‘til tonight, but I just couldn’t get it all together.”

Blyleven secured his 100th major league win by getting Oakland’s Tim Hosley to ground out. He credited his winning achievement to the Rangers staff.

“I have to credit Sid Hudson (Rangers pitching coach) with a big assist because he was working with me before the game on the way I was gripping my fastball,” Blyleven said. “It really made a difference. The fastball was really moving.”

In response to Blyleven’s one-hitter, Hudson couldn’t help but compliment the pitcher’s execution.

“As good a game you’ll ever see pitched,” Hudson said. “You saw Blyleven at his best, and that is a thing of beauty.”

Blyleven, who won 287 games over a 22-year major league career, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011.

Larkin Richards is the 2022 social media intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series