Showing posts with label Tony Oliva. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tony Oliva. Show all posts

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mudcat Grant champions the case for his teammates on the Golden Era Ballot

With a career that started under the watchful eye of Larry Doby during his 1958 rookie season with the Cleveland Indians, Jim “Mudcat” Grant was always surrounded by Hall of Fame talent. During his 14 major league seasons, Grant was teammates with 19 different Hall of Famers. On December 8th, he hopes to see that number increase in size.

Four of Grant’s former teammates — Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, and Maury Wills are up for consideration on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Golden Era ballot. A 16-member panel of former players, executives and media members will decide on their collective fates for enshrinement at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Jim "Mudcat" Grant / N.Diunte
When Grant broke in to the majors in 1958, always hustling for him in the outfield was Minnie Minoso. Even though Grant was already familiar with Minoso’s aggressive style of play, as they had faced each other previously in the Cuban Winter League, he couldn’t help but notice the variety of ways in which he contributed on the field.

“I noticed one thing about Minnie,” Grant said in an interview at last month’s Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation Dinner in New York, “he was an all-around ballplayer. He knocked in a lot of runs as an outfielder and he stole a lot of bases. He could do anything. He wasn’t a big guy, but he went all out all the time. He was like Pete Rose; even on a short pop-up he would run like he was beating out a base hit. …. I think Minnie [Minoso] should be in, but he’s not going to make it. … He’s in my Hall of Fame if that counts.”

As he started to think about the Hall of Fame chances of his aforementioned teammates, he found fault with the entire process. He related the process to one of a popularity contest.

“When I talk about the Hall of Fame,” he said, “I don’t have a lot of respect for those people who vote for the Hall of Fame because they miss so many people that should be in the Hall of Fame. It seems like they called up one another and said, ‘Let’s put this guy in.’”

Grant stuck out over 1,200 batters in his major league career, but the amount of swings-and-misses on what should have been home runs that he’s seen from the Hall of Fame electorate has baffled him. He turned his attention to two other pitchers Lee Smith and Jim Kaat, the latter who is the leading returning vote getter from the 2012 Golden Era ballot.

“I know some guys that [have a Hall of Fame] vote and when they miss Lee Smith, when they miss Jim Kaat — who should be in the Hall of Fame … There are so many pitchers in the Hall of Fame that have less victories than Jim Kaat. … How does this work now? You have to wonder why you are holding out on this guy and that guy who should be in the Hall of Fame.”

The further he thought about who the various committees have missed, he immediately turned to another teammate, Tony Oliva. Grant played alongside Oliva on the Minnesota Twins when they challenged the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1965 World Series. The Cuban-born Oliva was another slam dunk choice for Mudcat.

“He should be in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “There’s no answer to this even when you ask some of the guys that got votes; there’s no answer to it. You have to think about Vada Pinson, Al Oliver; there are so many people.”

With the newly formed committees from the Hall of Fame to assess players against those of their own eras, opportunities are being created to potentially right some of the wrongs made by the BBWAA and past Veterans Committees. Grant still feels like these groups have lost the chance to honor those deserving of the Hall.

“When you get to the Veterans Committee,” he said, “they miss out too because it seems like they compare who they’re voting for to themselves. If you’re in the Hall of Fame and you’ve got a chance to put the veterans in, you’re missing out on an opportunity. A Hall of Fame vote should be thought about for players who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. You have to do a little research on these guys to see what they did.”

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tony Oliva takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Tony Oliva
Minnesota Twins legend, the 76-year old Tony Oliva, showed that you aren't too young to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

The 1964 American League Rookie of the Year cheerfully took a dip in ice water in support of ALS research.

He calls out Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, and my good friend Paul Casanova to take the corresponding plunge.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tony Oliva still on cloud nine about his baseball career

Legendary Minnesota Twins outfielder Tony Oliva recently made an appearance in New York City at a baseball card show. Oliva, who just had a statue dedicated to himself at Target Field on opening day, took some time to reflect on his 50 years with the organization.

Long after he has retired his glove and spikes, at age 72 Tony Oliva still dreams about his baseball career. Born in 1938 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Oliva went on to achieve major league stardom after humble beginnings growing up on the farm. As a young man, Oliva simply desired to follow in the footsteps of the Cubans that preceded him and play baseball. He never thought he would have experienced this journey.

“I still dream about everything I achieved. I dream about my career, dream about playing baseball, meeting so many people, traveling so much,” Oliva said. “Coming from where I came from, a poor family working in the country, to being able to come here and meet so many wonderful people. I had a chance to touch so many people's lives, visiting churches, schools, hospitals, and retirement homes. I never dreamed this would happen. I didn't plan it this way, but this is the way the big chief wanted it.”

Just a few weeks ago, Oliva had another dream come true when the Minnesota Twins unveiled a statue of his likeness outside of Gate Six on opening day at Target Field.

“Can you believe that? It's in Gate #6, which was my number. I tell people, you never know, from the farm in Cuba to having a statue of you in front of the big league stadium. It’s unbelievable,” Oliva glowingly said during a recent appearance in New York City.

Returning to New York for the first time in many years brought back vivid memories of playing in the city for the eight-time All-Star.

“I love New York. I love to come here, to play here, the tradition here. I'll never forget my first home run here was over Mickey Mantle's head. The ball went inside the monuments,” Oliva recalled. “For me to come to New York, it was unique. There were so many Hispanic people here in New York. They used to come over in right field to say hello. Some would scream to me because I did good here in New York. It was nice to be a part of the history here and play in front of all of these people.”

Brought to legendary scout “Papa” Joe Cambria by Roberto Fernandez Tapanes in 1960, Oliva made the journey from Cuba through Mexico to the United States to make his debut with Class-D Wytheville of the Appalachian League in 1961. Oliva tore through the league, batting an astounding .410, and after hitting .350 at Class-A Charlotte the following season, he was summoned to the major leagues for a late September call-up. He played 15 seasons for the Twins, winning three batting titles in the American League in addition to his aforementioned eight All-Star appearances.

Now working as a special assistant for the team, 2011 marks the 50th year that Oliva has been involved in the Twins organization as a player, coach, and administrator. He is still amazed that he is with the same team he started with a half-century ago. He expressed gratitude for the Twins ownership of the opportunities that he has received.

“Mr. Griffith for me was part of the family, like a second father," he said. "He did something for me that I will never forget. When I finished playing as a regular, he called me in and told me, ‘I want you to be in the organization as long as you want. I want you to be my hitting coach. How much do you want to make?’” Griffth asked Oliva. “I knew how much the coaches were making; the coaches don't make nothing. I told him, 'Give me what you think is the right amount.'"

Oliva was more than satisfied with Griffith's response.

"He paid me well; he gave me twice what the coaches were making. I didn't have to ask or beg him for a job, he offered it to me. He told me I could work here as long as I wanted. I thought it was nice of him to call me in and give me almost a lifetime job.”

As one of the proud faces of the franchise, Oliva has embraced his role as an ambassador for the club.

“I didn't believe something like this would happen to me. I've been with the organization for 50 years. I was supposed to be here only six months, 50 years later, I'm still here. I enjoy it more every day.”