This week the Phillies are in the Twin Cities and tonight we are taking a look at the career of Hall of Very Good contender Tony Oliva.
1970 Topps #510 Tony Oliva
I liked Tony Oliva when I was a kid. No idea why - cool sounding name, older guy had a .300 average are among my guesses. Probably read a gushing article in Baseball Digest somewhere along the line.
One has to wonder how close Oliva's career was to never happening. I don't know a lot about the Cuban revolution, but I would have to think that Tony Oliva had to be among the last players to come out of Cuba in the era - According to Baseball-ref he has minor league experience dating back to 1961. Following a couple of cups of coffee in 62 and 63 Tony Oliva began playing regularly in 1964 when he earned Rookie of the Year honors. In his debut he led the league in Batting Avg (.323) , Runs 109 , Hits 217 Doubles (43) and Total Bases (374). Those numbers were also good enough for 4th in the MVP voting, an award which he would finish runner up for in both 1965 (teammate Zoilo Versailes) and 1970 (Boog Powell).
Oliva played his entire 15 year career with the Twins. He represented the team in 8 consecutive All-Star games, starting with his rookie campaign. He led the league in Batting 3 times and hits 5. In 1971 He led the AL in both AVG and slugging. For his career Oliva batted .304 good enough for 154th all time - much of his career was played during a pitching heavy era. He finished just short of some milestone numbers, 1917 Hits and 947 RBIs with 220 Home Runs.
Oliva helped the Minnesota reach the playoffs in 3 different seasons, 1965, 69 and 70 But the Twins lost all 3 series. The 1965 World Series the Twins and Dodgers battled 7 games with the Dodgers taking the finale behind a Sandy Koufax 3 Hitter. Oliva did have a Home Run off of Don Drysdale in game 4 of the series.
Post playing career Tony Oliva has been involved with the Minnesota Twins in varying roles and still maintains ties to the community.
For The Collector
1970 Topps commons can sometimes be had for a dime, but for a semi-star like Oliva one would likely have to look for the card in a quarter or 3/buck bin.
His rookie card is 1963 Topps #228 and Identifies Tony as "Pedro Oliva". The card is shared with Ed Kranepool and two other players. Low eBay for an off condition of this card was $4.04. $8.50 will get you the card in a bit nicer condition.
For those of you with a little extra cash laying around a PSA 9 MINT version of this card finished at $1699.00. Yes a buck shy of Seventeen Hundred Dollars!!! PSA 7 NM cards went far cheaper with five auctions ending between $60 and $85 and one being under $50.
Topps had Tony Oliva on a slow progression. His 2nd yr card is also a shared card #116. Finally on 1965 #340 Topps granted Oliva a solo card - which is also a rookie cup card. Although Oliva is present in the Topps Super set at card #44. His last Topps Card is 1976 Topps #35
Baseball Card Database