Sunday, June 1, 2014

MISSING IN ACTION OR CAREER CAPPER-EITHER WAY WE CELEBRATE TWINS GREAT TONY OLIVA IN 1977

You can either look at todays 1977 card as either a "missing in action" or a "career capper" for Minnesota Twins great Tony Oliva in the 1977 Topps set.
Take a look at my creation:


Even though Oliva played out the 1976 season as a player-coach, I don't think he officially stated that it would be his last season as an active player.
But even if he did, I think it would have been nice to have one last card for him in 1977, especially since he appeared in 67 games for the Twins, good for 128 plate appearances.
The numbers weren't what everyone was used to from the former hitting machine in 1976: a .211 average with a single homer and 16 runs batted in.
But Oliva established himself as possibly the second best Twins hitter ever at that point (behind Rod Carew), and would retire with a .304 career average, 220 homers and just under 2000 hits (1917) in his 15 year career.
Throw in the fact that what would end up being his last Topps card, in 1976, is kind of lame because of the picture Topps used.
There's a prominent shadow straight across Oliva's face, and it always bothered me.
Seems I remember a few other cards in the 1975 or 1976 sets where shadows played a big part of the a card (1975 Jim Palmer for one).
Anyway, Oliva was well on his way to the Hall of Fame until injuries derailed his Cooperstown march once he reached his 30's.
He burst onto the Major League scene in 1964 when he easily won the American League Rookie of the Year award.
In that year, all he did was lead the league in batting, hitting .323, while slamming 32 homers with 94 runs batted in. 
He also lead the league in runs scored with 109, hits with 217, doubles with 43 and total bases with 374!
Those numbers also got him a fourth place finish in M.V.P. voting as well.
The following year there was no sign of a sophomore jinx, as he once again lead the lead in batting, this time hitting .321, with 16 homers, 98 R.B.I.'s, 40 doubles and 107 runs scored.
He also lead the league in total hits again, this time with 185.
All told in his career, Oliva would win three batting titles (the third coming in 1971 when he hit .337), and would lead the league in hits five times, slugging once (1971), get named to eight straight all-star teams, and have two second-place finishes for M.V.P., in 1965 and 1970.
I wouldn't say his final numbers warrant a Hall of Fame spot for Oliva. But I'll admit that you can argue a good point for it with the career he left us with.
When you really take a look, he only had 11 full seasons in the Majors, with the half-season in 1976 and three pretty much non-existant years in 1962, 1963 and 1972. 
So his numbers carry a bit more weight in that light.
And wow, what a great hitting combo he and Rod Carew made for the Twins, huh?!
Nice 1-2 punch right there.

3 comments:

  1. This site is awesome. I think I've finally found a bigger baseball nerd than me. Now try and produce a card with Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman as Baltimore Orioles...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Hey Johnny! Glad to hear you like the blog.
      Just an obsession of mine that never went away no matter where life took me.
      That 1976 set is by far my all-time favorite!

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