When researching for this article, I quickly checked through the retired numbers in Twins history. As I dug deeper, I found out that Tony Oliva was not in the Hall of Fame and took a look at his stats. Once the page loaded, my jaw nearly hit the floor.
“How on earth is this guy not in the Hall of Fame?”
Perhaps that’s a dramatic way to start this slide, but when you look at what Oliva did during his 15-year career, it’s crazy to think he’s not in Cooperstown.
Spending his entire career with the Twins, Oliva hit .304 smacking 220 HR and driving in 947 RBI for the Twins. He won the 1964 AL Rookie of the Year Award, was a three-time AL batting champion (1964, 1965 and 1971) and finished in the top-five of AL Most Valuable Player voting three times, including a two-time runner up in 1965 and 1970.
If you’re still not convinced that Oliva is a Hall of Famer, his eight All-Star appearances represented a stretch between 1964 to 1971 where he hit .313 with 177 HR and 719 RBI. As a result, Oliva was one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball during that time and was one of the stars for the Twins during their early days in Minnesota.
Part of the reason for Oliva being snubbed could be his final four years of his career, which were all spent as the newly-instated designated hitter, which came into play in 1973. With his body turning on him to the tune of eight knee operations, it’s fair to wonder if another Gold Glove in the outfield or one more batting title would have pushed him over the edge to get in.
For now, Oliva has to play the waiting game that many players do. His stats are good enough to get into Cooperstown and still remains on the Golden Era ballot, but until then, he’s one of the greatest players in MLB history not to be enshrined.