After the news of your election to the Hall of Fame via the Golden Days Committee last Sunday, we leave you with the 10 most memorable moments of Cuban Tony Oliva during his six decades with the Minnesota Twins.
1. Came in and won a batting title
While he had to deal with a tough adjustment to life in the United States as a black Cuban who spoke very little English, and amidst the tensions between the U.S. and Cuban governments, Oliva also had to adapt to Major League Baseball pitching with brief Stays with the Twins in 1962 and 1963 before becoming a fixture in the big team lineup in 1964, hitting second on Opening Day ahead of Bob Allison, Jimmie Hall and Harmon Killebrew.
Oliva had two hits and a run that day, kicking off one of the most memorable rookie seasons in major league history. The 25-year-old had two or more hits in his first five games, had three four-hitter games in early May and was hitting .392 by June 2. He finished the season with a line of .323 / .359 / .557, becoming the first player in the modern era to win a batting title as a rookie, something only Ichiro Suzuki has achieved since then. Oliva also led the league in runs scored, hits and doubles that season, which he capped by winning the LA Rookie of the Year.
2. Two is better than one
The second year slump? Forget about it. Oliva spent his second season confirming his place as one of the most fearsome hitters on the Young Circuit. Though he started slower, he flared up to .374 between July and the end of the season, a key performance for Minnesota to win the LA pennant.A three-hit evening on Sept. 21 against Baltimore allowed it to part ways with Carl Yastrzemski for good. in the fight for the batting crown, and an eventual nine-point lead (.321 to .312) made Oliva the only player in LA / LN history to finish leading in average in his first two seasons.
3. The Twins win the American
September 26, 1965
In just their fifth season in Minnesota, the Twins, under manager Sam Mele, held a solid lead in the LA standings since July 4, thanks to a strong pitching staff offensively backed by two future members. Hall of Famers Oliva and Harmon Killebrew, along with eventual LA MVP that year, Cuban shortstop Zoilo Versalles. They celebrated their move to the World Series on September 26 after defeating the Washington Senators, the first of three Young Circuit pennants in club history.
4. Home run against Drysdale in the World Series
October 10, 1965
Oliva was not very successful in that Fall Classic against the Dodgers ‘pitching, which was led by two future Cooperstown members, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, going 5-for-26 with two extra-base hits in the Twins’ seven-game loss. However, one of those hits flew over the fence at Dodger Stadium, Oliva’s only home run in a World Series during his 15-year career. The hit in the sixth inning off Drysdale in Game 4 brought Minnesota down 3-2, but Los Angeles finished 7-2 to tie the series at the time at two wins apiece.
5. The World Series won in 1987 and 1991
Oliva never played in a World Series again, but two decades later, he still found himself at the center of two of the greatest moments in Minnesota sporting history as a member of the coaching staff for both winning Twins clubs. the 1987 and 1991 World Series. He was the hitting coach for that 1987 team that triumphed seven games over the Cardinals and served as the bench coach when they defeated the Braves in seven games in 1991, just months after the Twins will officially retire their number 6.
Oliva is the only person who has been in the dugout in each of the three American League titles Minnesota have won (1965, 1987 and 1991).
6. Golden Glove Award
When Jim Kaat weighed in on his great Twins teammate, he noted that Oliva could be just as proud of his one Gold Glove as he was of his three batting crowns, then he shared his memories of how Oliva let go of soaring. in the instructional league in Florida in the sixties. Oliva was blessed with a cannon for arm in right field, but struggled to field hits when he arrived from his native Cuba, but by shaping his game by following the lead of Hall of Fame Al Kaline and after working hard. With his coaches, Oliva was awarded his Golden Glove in 1966 along with a sixth place in the voting for the MVP Award.
“Nobody worked harder than me,” exclaimed Oliva. “He was the worst outfielder you could imagine. I could sit on the field – the ball slipped between my legs in my early years. I never played many outfields in my native Cuba. But four years later, I won the Gold Glove.”
7. Oliva makes history as BD
April 6, 1973
Perhaps no one immediately benefited from the designated hitter’s integration into the 1973 American League than Oliva, who missed nearly the entire 1972 season due to lingering knee problems that sapped most of his power at the plate and banned him. cover the outfield in the last four seasons of his career. It is fitting, then, that Oliva occupies an amusing place in history as the first player to blow himself up as BD with a cannon shot in the first inning off Oakland pitcher Catfish Hunter on Opening Day, a two-punch. races at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum that sent his good friend and teammate Rod Carew to the plate.
8. Eight in a row
June 29, 1969
The most memorable stretch of two games by a Twins player belongs to Puckett, who notably recorded 10 hits and 24 total bases in Milwaukee from Aug. 29-30, 1987, but Oliva’s performance on a doubleheader faced to the Royals on June 29, 1969, he has to be about the same level. Not only did the Cuban hit five hits in the game that day, one of only four in his career, but that game-of-the-night performance came after a three-hit performance in Game 1 that gave Oliva a clear eight in eight. back-to-back home plate hits, falling three behind the record in MLB’s expansion era (since 1961).
After hitting three singles in the first game, Oliva had an infield hit, then a three-dash, double, another two-run shot and another single in Game 2 before manager Billy Martin replaced him with pinch runner Charlie Manuel in the eighth episode.
9. The Five Home Run Inning
June 9, 1966
Considering the power in the starting lineups of the early and mid-1960s, it should come as no surprise that Oliva and his teammates were on their way to breaking a home run record, many years before the 2019 “Bomba Squad” broke. other home run marks in Minneapolis. On a station day at Metropolitan Stadium, the Twins put on a show of power in the seventh inning from five players in a stretch of six, after Rich Rollins and Cuban Zoilo Versalles blown up the fence back-to-back. Ahead of Oliva, Don Mincher and Killebrew will hit back-to-back boards one out later for the first act of five home runs in American League history. The last time a Young Circuit team accomplished that feat was in 2020, when the Yankees kicked the ball out of the park five times in a fourth inning against the Blue Jays.
10. The statue is unveiled
April 8, 2011
When Target Field opened in 2010, one of the fan access entrances was named “Gate 6” in honor of Oliva. A year later, they took an extra step in honoring the legend for all the time of service given to the Twins by dedicating a full-body statue of Oliva outside that door – one of seven sculptures created by artist Bill Mack in honor. to the most important figures in the history of the club.
“I think I’ve been in the Hall of Fame my whole life,” exclaimed Oliva. “It’s the truth. Having played here in Minnesota, having had the best family in the world. I have a good family. I think about how I feel about the people in Minnesota, the fans in Minnesota, and how the Minnesota Twins me They built a statue in front of the stadium. I come from Cuba, from a small town in Cuba. “
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10 best moments in Oliva’s career