Tony Oliva Autographs, Memorabilia & Collectibles

Born: July 20, 1938 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Player Career
Bat: Left Throw: Right Height: 6' 1" Weight: 175
First Game: September 9, 1962 ; Final Game: September 29, 1976
Awards and Achievements
Named AL Player of the Year by The Sporting News (1965 and 1971)
Named AL Rookie of the Year by Baseball Writers' Association of America (1964)
Named AL Rookie Player of the Year by The Sporting News (1964)
Named outfielder on The Sporting News AL All-Star Team (1964 to 1966 and 1970 to 1971)
Won AL Gold Glove as outfielder (1966)
Biography | show moreshow less
Tony Oliva
This article was written by Peter C. Bjarkman and is presented in part, courtesy of the Society for American Baseball Research
Tony Oliva stands at the forefront of an exceedingly select group – one that also includes Tany (Atanasio) Pérez, Rafael Palmeiro and Orestes "Minnie" Miñoso. These are the few unrivaled candidates for recognition as the greatest major league hitter ever to emigrate to the professional big time from the baseball-rich island nation of Cuba. Palmeiro (with 569 long balls in 2,831 games) and Pérez (379 in 2,777 games) far outstripped Oliva (202 in 1,676 games) in big league career homers; Miñoso (playing 159 more games) also would register a marginally more lofty career base hits total (1,963 to 1,917). But Oliva was the only one of the stellar quartet to claim a league batting title (which he did on three occasions); five different times Oliva also paced a big league circuit in base hits, a feat never achieved by Pérez and accomplished only once by Miñoso and Palmeiro. And only Oliva retired with a lifetime batting average above the .300 high-water mark.

If raw career power numbers amassed by the other three (and also by José Canseco, with 462 homers and 1,407 RBI) notably outstrip those in Oliva's resume, an easy explanation is found in the significant differences in total seasons and total games logged on the big league diamond. Reduce the career of each Cuban star to a single 162-game lifetime average, and the differences between them become rather too close to adequately distinguish one from the other. Oliva leads the pack in two categories (185 hits and a .304 BA); his 21-per-year average for round trippers nearly matches Pérez (at 22) and is outdistanced only by Palmeiro (at 33); his 92 yearly RBI average total edges Miñoso (90), essentially equals Pérez (96), and lags behind only Palmeiro (105).

But such thumbnail comparisons somewhat blunt the true significance of Tony Oliva's near-Hall-of-Fame-stature career. While the Pinar del Río native may remain without an official plaque hung in Cooperstown, his place in diamond history will nonetheless always be easily assured by a memorable collection of early-1960s pioneering awards and achievements. He was the first among his fellow Cuban countrymen to win a big league batting title and perhaps even more significantly the first big leaguer (Latino or otherwise) ever to capture batting crowns in his initial two seasons. To add some further luster, Oliva was also the first Cuban to earn Rookie of the Year plaudits in the majors. Among the long list of stellar Latin American imports, only Venezuela's Luis Aparicio (1956) and Puerto Rico's Orlando Cepeda (1958) preceded Oliva in claiming the big league top rookie award. And before 1964 (when Oliva topped the junior circuit and Puerto Rico's R oberto Clemente also paced the senior circuit), only Mexico's Roberto Avila (1954) and Clemente (1961) among Latinos stars had ever walked off with either an American League or National League batting crown.

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