Tony Oliva finally enters the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on July 24th, and to celebrate, I wanted to take a look back and remember some of my personal memories with the Minnesota Twins legend.
Before I get started, let me preface this by saying that if you asked Tony Oliva who I was, he’d probably not remember me. While my interactions with him were certainly memorable to me individually, Tony would have a hard time remembering me as I’m one of many to have experienced interactions with him.
As Tony Oliva enters the Hall of Fame, I look back on my memories with the Minnesota Twins legend.
My first memories of Tony came from my youth in the early 1970s. Tony O was still playing, but by this time his knee injuries were catching up with him, making him a capable hitter but not the star he once was. I do remember how the crowd would cheer and roar for Tony when he would get a hit, as he was still one of the most beloved Twins players despite his age.
My father was fortunate enough to be a batting practice pitcher for the Minnesota Twins from 1982-84 when Tony was a coach for the team. Through my dad, I got to meet him for the first time and observe him as a coach. Tony was always pleasant and jovial, with an endearing positive energy about him. He knew when to talk and when to just listen and he’s carried that persona throughout his career and time in Minnesota.
In addition to his work as a coach during the 1980s, Tony used to run a hitting school out in Bloomington where my dad was a instructor there as well. I was able to attend a few sessions where Tony gave a few hitting tips in his unique style, giving me an opportunity to see him more behind the curtain as a real person.
This is when I really got to hear “Tony English”. Tony is well-known to have a thick, accented broken English (or Spanglish as many call it today). Tony’s sentences would be simple: “Keep your head still and swing through the baseball”. But it came out “Capea ya haad sill an twing truea da ball”.
This was something people recognized from Tony, but it could often be deciphered even further upon reflection. Each good swing would bring a “Muy Bien”, while bad swings would result in the future Hall of Famer remaining silent.
I enjoyed meeting and interacting with Tony. He was one of the MLB players who was able to keep his ego in check and connect with those around him. It’s a joy to see him enter the MLB Hall of Fame to enter the elite of immortality. Congratulations Tony, you are one of a kind!