November 30, 2020

The Hall of Fame case for Tony Oliva, one more time

Former Twins right fielder and designated hitter, Tony Oliva, was a good player and, at times, great when one considers his rookie season and three batting titles. But a devastating knee injury hampered his career, meaning he didn’t get the playing time to consistently produce the numbers needed for enshrinement. Oliva retired with a career batting average of better than .300, but fell short in every other meaningful category, such as home runs and hits.

And yet Oliva’s contemporaries continue to insist that he belongs in the Hall of Fame, according to “Tony Oliva: The life and times of a Minnesota Twins legend.”

Henninger either quotes or cites a number of former pitchers who rate Oliva as one of the best hitters of his generation.

Hall of Fame pitcher, Catfish Hunter:

“He did not have a weakness.”

Former 31-game winner Denny McClain:

“Tony Oliva was the best hitter I ever saw, bar none. I don’t care who they talk about today, but imagine Oliva hitting against the pitching quality now. He would hit .450 in this day.”

Former Cy Young award winner, Dean Chance:

“No one could hit like him. Carl Yastrzemski was a close second, but Tony was the toughest. There’s no way he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.”

Former 20-game winner Jim Bouton:

“For the period I played against him in the 1960s, he was, I would say, one of the top five hitters in baseball.”

“Sudden” Sam McDowell, who led the American League in strikeouts five times:

“I didn’t know, and I still don’t know, of any weakness that he had. He was a fantastic hitter, and quite frankly, I think he should be in the Hall of Fame.”

Extra innings…

-This is my final post about Henninger’s book. It was an enjoyable read, but not exactly a page-turner. And yet that’s not the author’s fault, but reflects the subject material. Oliva, though a good hitter, was not a star. He also was not a controversial figure, which may have given the book some added heft. Instead, he was a stand up guy who made his way from Cuba to Minnesota and found a life and career. In a bigger market, Oliva would’ve been a household name, but in small-market Minnesota, certainly in the 1960s, he was best known to those within the state and those he played against. Beloved in Minnesota, but not beyond it.

November 22, 2020

The year the Twins lost 2 games to start the season (yes, this is a thing)

The Minnesota Twins of the 1960s were a good team, some might even call them a great one. And this much was certain: they had left their sad-sack ways behind in Washington, D.C., and now won with regularity after their move to the upper Midwest. Although the team won only 70 games in its inaugural... Continue Reading »

November 15, 2020

The day Tony Oliva was beaned in the forehead

Tony Oliva, who spent his entire 15-season career with the Twins, had one of the best rookie campaigns of all time, and was the clear choice for AL Rookie of the Year in 1964, capturing 95 percent of the vote, according to Baseball-Reference.com. The numbers are incredible: 217 hits, 109 runs, 94 RBI, 43 doubles,... Continue Reading »

November 8, 2020

A magnanimous Calvin Griffith? Maybe

Julio Becquer, a former pinch hitter for the Twins, died this month, generating remembrances from Minnesota-based sports media. He was 88. Becquer also was Cuban, and one of a long line of Cuban ballplayers who made their way to the Washington Senators and Twins. You know the names: Pedro Ramos, Tony Oliva, Camilo Pascual and... Continue Reading »

October 31, 2020

There’s a new Sheriff in the AL Central, Twins fans

Hall of Fame manager, Tony La Russa, who began his major league managing career with the Chicago White Sox, is back where it all started after he was named the team’s new manager this week. And that means an extra level of competition for the Twins in the AL Central. The White Sox have a... Continue Reading »

October 22, 2020

The day Wayne Terwilliger was a footnote in a trade to get ‘Pafko at the Wall’

Wayne Terwilliger, the former longtime fist-base coach for the Twins, played 37 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951. The Dodgers weren’t interested in Twig, but they did want the Chicago Cubs’ Andy Pafko, so the Dodgers sent a handful of players to the Cubs and got Pafko, Twig and more in return. Pafko was... Continue Reading »

October 15, 2020

Twins killer Whitey Ford, who had career winning percentage of .690, is dead at 91

It’s hard to imagine that 2020 could get any worse, but it has after losing some of the giants of the game. In a matter of weeks, it seems, we have lost Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Joe Morgan and longtime Yankees pitcher, Whitey Ford, the Chairman of the Board. Ford died last week... Continue Reading »

October 3, 2020

Despite the Twins’ monumental postseason failures, the future is bright. Really.

Amid the slow-moving train wreck that was the Twins’ Game 2 loss to the Houston Astros was this: Alex Kirilloff, a highly ranked prospect in the Twins organization, made his major league debut in that game and wasted no time in getting his first hit, a sharply lined single to right field. A right fielder... Continue Reading »

October 1, 2020

There is no God

If you’re a Twins fan of faith, you probably picked up the Good Book, then put it down, or perhaps even put it away. You probably also removed the cross on the wall behind the bed, and before you knelt bedside to say a few words to the almighty, you probably just sat there, head... Continue Reading »

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Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.