Nov. 18, 2017
Tony Oliva: A Bright And Shining Star
Tony Oliva exploded onto the American League scene during his rookie year of 1964. Where Oliva would win the batting hitting .323, adding 32 home runs and 94 RBI, and led the league in doubles with 43, 217 hits, and 109 runs scored. It was the first of back-to-back batting titles for the rightfielder. He would be named the American League Rookie of the year at the conclusion of the season.
It was a career that almost wasn't for Oliva. Born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba in 1938. He arrived in the United States in the spring of 1961, and managed to play in the Twins final three games showing exceptional hitting going 7 for 10. The knock was on his defense, and with minor league rosters set the young outfielder was released. While working out in North Carolina with a friend in the Twins farm system at Charlotte, North Carolina, general manager Phil Howser convinced the front office of the Twins to re-sign Oliva, and the rest as they say is history.
Oliva displayed his offensive prowess during era that was dominated by pitching, and referred by many as the second dead ball era of baseball. He would be an all-star eight consecutive seasons until the ravages of knee, leg and shoulder problems put a damper on this can't miss Hall-of-Fame career.
A career that included three batting titles (1964-65, and 1971), and a Gold Glove in 1966. He ended his career with 220 home runs, 947 RBI, and a slash line of .304/.353/.476. He only struck out only 664 times in 6880 plate appearances. In 2014, he narrowly missed being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Era Committee by one vote. Always popular in Minnesota with the Twins fans and media. Oliva's #6 was retired by the Minnesota Twins, and 2011 a statue of Oliva was unveiled at Target Field.