So many of us have been spending so may more days at home and so………..many of us have been reaching for a good book to wile away the hours.
This weekend, I reread a biography of Tony O.
Tony Oliva, The Life And Times Of A Minnesota Twins Legend was published in 2015 and was authored by St Paul native and long time baseball aficionado Thom Henninger. It’s well worth a read if you’re a Twins fan and especially if you’re old enough to have lived through those years when Tony was roaming right field at Met Stadium and terrorizing American League pitchers with that oh so pretty swing from the left side of the plate.
Henninger, an associate editor at Baseball Digest, does a great job of telling Tony’s story while lending perspective not only to those power packed Twin’s teams of the 1960s and early 70s but also to the life altering complications experienced by Cuban ballplayers trying to make it in the major leagues in the midst of The Cold War.
We may have never heard of Tony Oliva were it not for a choice he made in the aftermath of The Bay Of Pigs Invasion. Tony had just arrived in these United States when a US backed effort to foment insurrection against the Castro regime and manned by Cuban exiles was crushed by Cuban military forces.
Tony was left with two choices. He could either return home to the family farm in Cuba or stick it out here in the states in hopes of making it as a big league ballplayer. Tony knew that if he returned to his native land that the odds of his being able to return to the States lay somewhere between slim and none.
Tony stayed. Tony played. Boy, did he play!!
Henninger devotes the epilogue of his book to the question of whether or not Tony belongs in baseball’s Hall Of Fame. To most of who marveled at Tony’s playing prowess, this is a no-brainer. The man won the American League batting title three times and is the only player to win “the silver bat” in both his rookie and sophomore years. His was a rare ability to hit for a high average and for power. Tony was always among the league leaders in hits, extra base hits and slugging percentage.
Yes, Tony’s prime was cut short by a succession of knee surgeries. Still, the numbers he compiled coupled with the respect he earned from his fellow ballplayers should have more than qualified Tony for a trip to Cooperstown.
Here’s a little perspective from a true Twin’s fan. If Tony had played his career and duplicated his numbers in Yankee pinstripes….there’s no doubt that he would have been inducted into “the Hall” long ago.
Thanks Thom for the great book! Thanks Tony for the memories!