Tony Oliva

Tony Oliva

July 20, 1938
6' 1"
175 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-09-1962 with MIN
Allstar Selections:
1964 ROOK, 1966 GG


Cuban-born Oliva's real name was Pedro, but he used his brother Tony's identity to get himself into the United States, signing with the Minnesota Twins in 1961. He hit .342 in three minor league seasons, winning one batting title and missing another by .0001 of a point. In two short stints with Minnesota, Oliva hit a combined .438 in 1962 and 1963 and then won the batting title and American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1964. Bucking the "sophomore jinx," Oliva won the batting crown again in his second season, the only man to cop the title in his first two years, and later added a third title. He played his entire 15-year career for the Twins, helping them to the post-season three times. He was a hitting machine: finishing in the top three in the league in hitting in seven of his first eight seasons, and pacing the circuit in hits five times.

Replaced By

Craig Kusick, who was an All-American linebacker in college, and whose son (Craig Jr.) went on to play professional arena football.

Best Season

As a rookie, he led the AL in hits (217), batting (.323), runs (109), total bases (374), doubles (43), extra-base hits (84), and multi-hit games (71). He probably should have won the MVP, but Brooks Robinson got it with his glove and a career year at the plate.

Factoid 1

Tony Oliva joined Joe DiMaggio as the only players to be named to the All-Star Game in their first six seasons. Oliva extended that string to eight years, a major league record.

Factoid 2

Tony Oliva hit the first home run ever by a designated hitter in a regular season game, on April 6, 1973, against the Oakland A's.


Minnesota Twins (1976-1978, 1985-1991) As a coach with the Twins (a player/coach in 1976), Oliva is credited with helping Lyman Bostock, Hosken Powell, Kirby Puckett and others. Puckett claimed that Oliva was responsible for making him a better major league hitter. During his playing days, Oliva helped teammate Rod Carew, a seven-time batting champion, with his hitting approach. "Baseball is funny. A lot of good baseball people are not in the game's teaching positions," Oliva said. "When you are sick, you go to the best doctor you can find. When you're in trouble, you find the best lawyer. But if you look in baseball, some of the best players aren't in coaching."


Hitting for average.


The inability to stay healthy.

Batting Uphill

Oliva played his career in one of the worst eras for his strength - hitting for average. Year-after-year he was among the two to three best hitters in his league, yet his career batting average of .304 seems modest compared to top hitters from the 1920s, 1930s, 1990s and 2000s. However, Oliva's relative batting average, that is his average compared to his league, is one of the best in baseball history, and one of the top ten since 1930. Had Oliva played in the 1980s and 1990s, for example, he most likely would have had a career average like wade Boggs (.328) or Rod Carew (.333).


On June 9, 1966, Oliva hit one of five home runs by the Twins in the seventh inning against the A's, an AL record.

Tony Oliva
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