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  • Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat Elected to the Hall of Fame


    Cody Christie

    Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat have been waiting years to get the call from Cooperstown. Would they finally get elected to the Hall of Fame on Sunday?

    Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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    Tony Oliva's playing career was over in 1976, and Jim Kaat's career ended in 1983. Neither was able to garner the support needed on the BBWAA's ballots, as both were well short of the 75% required for election. For many players, this signals the end of their chances to get the call from Cooperstown. However, Oliva and Kaat have gotten a second chance through the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Era Committee elections. 

    The Golden Days Era ballot consists of 10 candidates that the BBWAA's Historical Overview Committee nominates. A 16-person committee of Hall of Famers, veteran baseball executives, and historians/media members is charged with voting on the candidates. Twelve votes are needed for a player to reach the 75% threshold required for induction.

    On Sunday, Oliva and Kaat finally received the call. Both were named on 12 of the 16 ballots. Each will be inducted to Cooperstown as part of the induction ceremony on July 24, 2022.

    Now in both in their 80s, frustration has likely followed each as they dealt with the election process in parts of nearly four decades. Another level of frustration was added back in the summer of 2020 as the National Baseball Hall of Fame decided to postpone the Era Committee elections due to the COVID pandemic. Although there is still uncertainty about the pandemic, this winter was acceptable for the committee votes to occur,

    Oliva's playing career statistics haven't changed since 1976, but he has become so much more than the player he was on the field. His career accolades include AL Rookie of the Year, three batting titles, eight-time All-Star, led the AL in hits five times, and a Gold Glove. Oliva finished runner-up for the AL MVP in two different seasons, and he was in the top-20 in eight other campaigns. He played at a Hall of Fame level for eight years before his right knee slammed into a sprinkler head while diving for a line drive in 1971.

    Knee injuries plagued Oliva throughout much of his career. When the AL adopted the designated hitter role in 1973, Oliva never played in the field again during a regular-season game. During the 1976 season, he struggled to a .494 OPS in 67 games. His playing career was done, but he joined the team's coaching staff the following year. 

    For 15-years, he spent time as a first base coach, hitting coach, and roving minor-league instructor. Oliva served as the hitting coach when the Twins won the 1987 World Series, and he was the bench coach for the 1991 World Series team. Oliva is the only individual who had an on-field role in all three of the team's World Series appearances. 

    Off the field, Oliva became an ambassador to baseball throughout the upper Midwest. He provides Spanish-language broadcasting for the Twins. Oliva is a staple as part of the team's Twins Caravan, making trips to small towns throughout Twins Territory. He and his wife, Gordette, have lived in Minnesota for over five decades as the Olivas impacted the community.

    Kaat's resume also puts him among the best all-time. His longevity is something to behold and it was a large part of his Cooperstown case. During a 25-year career, he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 2,461 strikeouts in 4,530 1/3 innings. He was an original member of the Twins franchise as he came with the club when they relocated from Washington. His first 15 big-league seasons were spent in the Senator/Twins organization. He was a two-time All-Star with the Twins, and he led the AL in wins, starts, and innings pitched back in 1966. 

    He played with five different organizations by the end of his career and averaged over 180 innings per season. His defensive prowess puts him into rarified air. He won 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards, which is tied with Brooks Robinson for second all-time. Only Greg Maddux and his 18 Gold Gloves rank ahead of Kaat on the all-time list. 

    Congratulations to both players and their families. It was a long time coming, but the honor is well deserved. 

    What is your favorite memory of Tony-O or Jim Kaat? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    23 minutes ago, Cody Christie said:

    Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat have been waiting years to get the call from Cooperstown. Would they finally get elected to the Hall of Fame on Sunday?

    Tony Oliva's playing career was over in 1976, and Jim Kaat's career ended in 1983. Neither was able to garner the support needed on the BBWAA's ballots, as both were well short of the 75% required for election. For many players, this signals the end of their chances to get the call from Cooperstown. However, Oliva and Kaat have gotten a second chance through the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Era Committee elections. 

    The Golden Days Era ballot consists of 10 candidates that the BBWAA's Historical Overview Committee nominates. A 16-person committee of Hall of Famers, veteran baseball executives, and historians/media members is charged with voting on the candidates. Twelve votes are needed for a player to reach the 75% threshold required for induction.

    On Sunday, Oliva and Kaat finally received the call. Both were named on 12 of the 16 ballots. Each will be inducted to Cooperstown as part of the induction ceremony on July 24, 2022.

    Now in both in their 80s, frustration has likely followed each as they dealt with the election process in parts of nearly four decades. Another level of frustration was added back in the summer of 2020 as the National Baseball Hall of Fame decided to postpone the Era Committee elections due to the COVID pandemic. Although there is still uncertainty about the pandemic, this winter was acceptable for the committee votes to occur,

    Oliva's playing career statistics haven't changed since 1976, but he has become so much more than the player he was on the field. His career accolades include AL Rookie of the Year, three batting titles, eight-time All-Star, led the AL in hits five times, and a Gold Glove. Oliva finished runner-up for the AL MVP in two different seasons, and he was in the top-20 in eight other campaigns. He played at a Hall of Fame level for eight years before his right knee slammed into a sprinkler head while diving for a line drive in 1971.

    Knee injuries plagued Oliva throughout much of his career. When the AL adopted the designated hitter role in 1973, Oliva never played in the field again during a regular-season game. During the 1976 season, he struggled to a .494 OPS in 67 games. His playing career was done, but he joined the team's coaching staff the following year. 

    For 15-years, he spent time as a first base coach, hitting coach, and roving minor-league instructor. Oliva served as the hitting coach when the Twins won the 1987 World Series, and he was the bench coach for the 1991 World Series team. Oliva is the only individual who had an on-field role in all three of the team's World Series appearances. 

    Off the field, Oliva became an ambassador to baseball throughout the upper Midwest. He provides Spanish-language broadcasting for the Twins. Oliva is a staple as part of the team's Twins Caravan, making trips to small towns throughout Twins Territory. He and his wife, Gordette, have lived in Minnesota for over five decades as the Olivas impacted the community.

    Kaat's resume also puts him among the best all-time. His longevity is something to behold and it was a large part of his Cooperstown case. During a 25-year career, he finished with a 3.45 ERA and 2,461 strikeouts in 4,530 1/3 innings. He was an original member of the Twins franchise as he came with the club when they relocated from Washington. His first 15 big-league seasons were spent in the Senator/Twins organization. He was a two-time All-Star with the Twins, and he led the AL in wins, starts, and innings pitched back in 1966. 

    He played with five different organizations by the end of his career and averaged over 180 innings per season. His defensive prowess puts him into rarified air. He won 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards, which is tied with Brooks Robinson for second all-time. Only Greg Maddux and his 18 Gold Gloves rank ahead of Kaat on the all-time list. 

    Congratulations to both players and their families. It was a long time coming, but the honor is well deserved. 

    What is your favorite memory of Tony-O or Jim Kaat? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

     

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    Happy, happy, happy; Joy, joy, joy.

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    So happy. One of the most kind people to walk the planet. In 1967 he came with a rookie, Rod Carew, to our school and he was funny and said what an honor it was to be around school age kids. I met him when I sold beer at the Metrodome and he was even more impressive as he aged. My parents and many of their friends took in Cuba families fleeing Castro's regime and Tony Oliva was a legend among their community. If you never saw him play, it would be hard to explain what an amazing hitter he was for his too brief career. There were polls of pitchers in the 1960s and early 1970s (maybe there still are polls - I don't know) and Tony O was always amongst the top five most feared and respected hitters by pitchers in the American League. Congratulations to the only hero I ever had outside of family. Tony Oliva - member of the Baseball Hall of Fame sounds perfect.

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    This is awesome.   To me its the Hall of Great or Hall of very good for a very long time.   Oliva gets in for the great criteria and Kaat for the very good.    The shorter your career the better you have to have been.   3 batting titles should get you in regardless.    Oliva has also been one of the best ambassadors of baseball in history.    He should get two spots.   This kind of makes Mauer a shoe in as well now.

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    Hurrah, for Tony O and Kitty! Goodness, could Tony hit. If he had come along 20 years later after knee surgery had evolved...but oh my those first 8 all-star years. 

    Kaat got a little respect for the million innings and endless gold gloves. Love it. He's still pretty fun on the mic too. Back in the 70's there weren't too many pitchers still crushing it at 36...let alone having their best season as a pro.

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    A wonderful day for Twins fan and for Jim and Tony.  Are they true HOF players?  Who can say and who cares.  They are great players and people.  I used to be a small hall guy, but that has changed.  Either they kick out the questionable inductees, or they honor the really good people that have played the game.  I am really happy for both of them, just as I was for Jack Morris. 

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    Tony is the ultimate player and ambassador. He laid a wiffle ball cookie to my 10 year old son at the state fair and the ball went over the makeshift fence. My son became a lifelong Twins fan because of it. I know that has nothing to do with HOF induction criteria but it makes me damn glad he is in. 
    Richly deserved for a lifetime of making people feel good. 

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    4 hours ago, stringer bell said:

    This was on the day in 2020 when spring training was canceled. I ran into Tony on my way back to my car when I saw no one was on the fields. Nice man!

    Just when I was thinking, nope, no Spring Training for me this time around either, not even if the greedy owners open things back up in time, a photo like this melts my cold, cold heart. :)

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    Tovar RF, Carew 2B. Oliva CF, Killebrew 1B, Allison LF, Rollins 3B, Cardenas SS, Roseboro C, Kaat P. 1970 starting line-up with 4 HOF's. Ulander coming off the bench and Perranoski and Worthington closing the game. They talk about Kaat's pitching but I believe he won a few Gold Gloves and he was a very good hitter too. Used on occasion as a pinch hitter. No one mentioned Griffith's outright releasing him after going 10-2 and trying to come back from a broken leg. The White Sox scarfed him up for a couple of 20 win seasons. I guess some things we'd just as soon forget. The best color analyst I've ever heard. All I can remember of Tony O was his offense and defense spectaculars and how important he has become to this organization.

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    I have never been to Cooperstown, but have always wanted to go.  My wife has heard me say dozens of times with hope in my voice "If Tony-O ever gets elected, we have to make the drive from Minnesota to Cooperstown, N.Y. and be there for the ceremony."  Well, we will probably be making the trip this July.  This is so wonderful for Tony-O AND Jim Kaat to be going in together.  I'm also happy for Buck O'Neill (a better ambassador for baseball there has never been, although Tony-O and Kaat are his equal) and I'm happy for Gil Hodges and his family.  Tony-O was my FIRST ever favorite player in any sport.  I was 6 years old when he won Rookie of the Year and 7 when the Twins played the Dodgers in the World Series.  It was when I became a lifelong baseball fan and always will be.  Those are magical years for a kid, and there will always be a special "magic" for Tony Oliva with me.   

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    I was a small HOF person and I would still like the Hall to create the Elite status for a room within it, but my overall feelings have changed.  This feels so good because they are both good players and even better people.  And personality does count - if Bonds and Clemens had the personality of Ortiz I think they would have been in the hall already.  But the exclusivity that some writers (and me) have about the best of the best of the best needs some softening.

    The fact that both of these men are alive and can celebrate makes this even better.  Imagine if Buck O'Neill were alive to deliver a speech at Cooperstown.  

    There is a certain inevitability to the lists and if you know it will happen, elect the person while they are still around.  That does not mean that players who have passed away should not get in.

    Finally, the election is more than the individuals, it is also about the team and the fan base.  In the midst of lockout, we now have nostalgia and holiday happiness from the hall.  It elevates us - as one posted comment stated now the 1970 lineup has four HOF players - that means something to us, even if it does not change the status of the teams win loss or standings.

    And, not to mention, Joe Mauer - you will get in, just a matter of time.

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    1 hour ago, TopGunn#22 said:

    I have never been to Cooperstown, but have always wanted to go.  My wife has heard me say dozens of times with hope in my voice "If Tony-O ever gets elected, we have to make the drive from Minnesota to Cooperstown, N.Y. and be there for the ceremony."  Well, we will probably be making the trip this July.  This is so wonderful for Tony-O AND Jim Kaat to be going in together.  I'm also happy for Buck O'Neill (a better ambassador for baseball there has never been, although Tony-O and Kaat are his equal) and I'm happy for Gil Hodges and his family.  Tony-O was my FIRST ever favorite player in any sport.  I was 6 years old when he won Rookie of the Year and 7 when the Twins played the Dodgers in the World Series.  It was when I became a lifelong baseball fan and always will be.  Those are magical years for a kid, and there will always be a special "magic" for Tony Oliva with me.   

    Concur all around.  We are about the same age.

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    As a young boy a group of us were playing a pick-up game and all of a sudden Mr. Kaat was standing there, glove in hand, giving us all little tips. An off day for the Twins I guess and he must have been driving by and saw a bunch of youngsters just having fun enjoying the game they all loved, and took an hour or 2 out of his day to teach us little things like the proper way to slide(feet first pop up style), glove down infield positioning, etc... That was back in the early to mid 60s, though I can't remember the exact year. He became my favorite Twin of all time. I'm so glad he finally got voted in.

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    What are favorite moments of the players ??????

    Kitty pitching and hitting a homerun in eighth inning and pitching the ninth inning for a complete game to win it ,,,he won it with his arm and bat  that day ,,,, it was awesome and never forgot it ...

    Tony was a hero of my youth and I became a switch hitter because of him .... he was a producer in every aspects of the game  , a clutch hitter and a very good defensive right fielder ... every moment he played the game was a favorite of mine ,,, his last hit of his career I was there at the met ,,,,

    IT'S ABOUT TIME FOR BOTH OF THEM TO BE IN COOPERSTOWN and I will most likely be there 

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    Hallelujah.  This was disgustingly long overdue.  Congrats to two of my favorite all-time Twins.  

    A little help from my historian friends out there:  My first Twins game,  I got to go with some family friends to Met Stadium.  IIRC it was 1970.  It was supposed to be a double-header against (I believe the Milwaukee Brewers).  We drove 4 hours to get there.  Twins were behind (I believe 5-4 after 5 innings in game one.)  Then came the rain.  Game was called.  Second game cancelled.  I was an extremely disappointed little boy.  But it was an early part of a lifelong fandom.  Can anyone tell me the date of that game and maybe where I can find the lineups and box score.  I would be very grateful.

     

    Edit:  Well,  I have been searching all day, and can't find anything resembling my memory of this day.  Granted, I was very young, but I'm starting to think I may have been lied to and we just left when the game got postponed due to rain.

     

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    1 hour ago, stringer bell said:

    How many HOFers does that make for the Twins? I consider them to be ex-Twins if they wouldn't have been elected without their time in Minnesota. There is Harmon, Rodney, Kirby, Bert, and now Tony-O and Kitty. All but Kirby were on the team for all or parts of the seasons from 1970-1973. 

    Rod Carew - always a Twin for me. 

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    30 minutes ago, mikelink45 said:

    Harmon, Rodney, Kirby, Bert, and now Tony-O and Kitty. All but Kirby were on the team for all or parts of the seasons from 1970-1973. 

    That is crazy. 5 Hall of Famers and they couldn't win anything. They weren't even .500 in 1971 and exactly .500 in 1972-73. You would think a team with 5 Hall of Famers in their prime would be better than .500.

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