Thursday, June 16, 2011

#340 Tony Oliva

#340 Tony Oliva
Okay, one last card from December's "pack" from Randy. You may have noticed that all five of these players were very good at baseball. If you were a kid in 1965 and you got a pack with Tony Oliva, Hoyt Wilhelm, Joe Torre, Norm Cash, and Gil Hodges, you probably would have passed out. Thanks again, pal!

Fun facts about Tony Oliva:

-A native of Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tony signed with the Twins in 1961.

-He made his major league debut in 1962 at age 24. In his first start, on September 14, 1962, he went 2-for-3 with a double, 2 walks, and 3 RBI.

-After short stints in the majors in 1962 and 1963, Tony became the Twins' everyday right fielder in 1964 and captured American League Rookie of the Year honors. He also made the first of eight straight All-Star teams, and led the league with 109 runs scored, 217 hits, 43 doubles (the first of four career doubles crowns), a .323 average, and 374 total bases. In addition, his 9 triples, 32 home runs, and .557 slugging percentage would all prove to be career highs.

-He repeated as batting champ in 1965 with a .321 mark, doubled 40 times, and drove in 98 runs in helping the Twins capture the pennant. He finished second to teammate Zoilo Versalles in MVP voting.

-Oliva won his only Gold Glove in 1966, a year in which he committed 10 errors (the most by any outfielder) but also ranked highly in advanced metrics like range factor, total zone runs, and defensive wins above replacement (WAR). Maybe the voters were ahead of their time, but I suspect that his .307 average and 25 homers had more to do with it.

-In a June 29, 1969 doubleheader at Kansas City, the outfielder collected hits in eight straight at-bats. He went 3-for-4 in the opener, stroking three singles after a flyout in his initial trip to the plate. In the nightcap, he went 5-for-5 with a pair of home runs, a double, and 5 RBI as the Twins romped 12-2 to salvage a split.

-Despite his .440 average (11-for-25) and .840 slugging percentage in the 1969 and 1970 playoffs, the Twins lost all six postseason games over those two seasons to the Orioles.

-Tony's last great season was 1971, when he was the top batter (.337) and slugger (.546) in the league and totaled 22 homers and 81 RBI in only 126 games.

-Knee problems seriously curtailed Oliva's career, and he retired at age 37 in 1976 with 1,917 hits in only 1,676 games. His lifetime average was .304 with 220 home runs and 947 RBI.

-He coached with the Twins from 1976-1978 and 1985-1991. He has been a minor league hitting instructor ever since. The Twins retired his #6 in 1991 and selected him as a charter member for the club's Hall of Fame in 2000. Just last April, they unveiled a statue in his likeness at Target Field.
#340 Tony Oliva (back)


  1. Very under-appreciated player. And I really like those 'top hat' trophy cards. I thought they really made the player seem special.

  2. I was a Twins fan growing up, and along the way heard the official story about Tony Oliva. That he's actually Pedro Oliva, but he used his brother Tony's information to get into the US from Cuba -- only later did it come out that he also knocked off a couple of years in the process. Instead of 1940, he was born in 1938, so he broke in at what's called a Latin 23.

    That card is small, but it looks like it says 1963 rookie star, not 1964.

  3. Does anyone know how Topps decided what cards to put in a pack? I assume there was some method so they didn't have packs with five all stars or something but I'm wondering if there was (is) someone sitting there deciding what cards to include.

  4. Bob - I like them too. Topps really lost something when they switched to the "Rookie Cup" in the 70s.

    J - I'll de darned! It does say 1963!

    Marc - I really don't know. I'm sure there's some pattern to it.