Rookie Card of “Should Be Great” Tony Oliva
As a young 24-year-old man Tony Pedro Oliva had to make an extremely difficult decision. He wanted to play Major League Baseball but to do so meant he would be expelled from his native homeland of Cuba by an authoritative decree. If he wanted to pursue American baseball he had to leave his home, his family, never to return again.
Tony was signed as a free agent in 1961 by the Minnesota Twins and debuted on September 9, 1962, against the Detroit Tigers where he struck out in his only at-bat coming in as a pinch hitter. That discouraging start quickly changed.
A Cuban immigrant yes. But one of the most feared hitters in the game baseball, also yes. In 1964, his first full season, he was the American League Rookie of the Year and won a Batting Title where he batted .323 with 32 home runs, 217 hits and 109 Runs Scored. Oh, and for the record, he won two other batting titles in 1965 and 1971 respectively.
Tony spent his entire 15-year career with the Minnesota Twins, he was an 8x All-Star, Gold Glove winner in 1966 and placed 2nd in MVP voting twice.
On June 29, 1969, playing a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals, Oliva popped out in his first at-bat but then went on to get eight consecutive hits in a row which included two home runs going 8 for 9 for the day.
The MLB adopted the Designated Hitter position at the start of the 1973 season. And on April 6, 1973, Tony Oliva hit the first DH home run off Catfish Hunter of the Oakland A’s. Also, beloved by fans a song was written about Tony Oliva:
They called us baby boomers and we crowded through the gate. Cheering Earl Battey crouched behind the plate. Though we loved them all we were so enthralled when a Cuban came to bat, he was number 6 and he could not miss, he made those hits old hat. We all worshipped the name Oliva but we called him Tony O…
Title: We Called Him Tony O. Copyright by Brian R. Williams
Listen to it via YouTube here.
Tony’s career was cut short due to chronic knee issues but he’s definitely made an impact on the game of baseball and much consideration and debate have been made about his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Perhaps someday.
Career Numbers: Batting Average .304 | On Base Percentage .353 | Hits 1917 | Home Runs 220 | RBI’s 947 | Stolen Bases 86
Rookie Card of Should Be Great
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1963 Topps, Card No. 228 shop ebay
The Pete Rose rookie card is the headliner card for the 1963 Topps set. Rusty Staub and Willie Stargell are other well-noted rookie cards in this set. But let us not neglect the rookie card of our featured should be great Tony Oliva. If inducted into the Hall of Fame this one too will see a spike in value and collector interest.
Topps really stepped outside of the box on this design. Typical design in previous years would group the rookies either by team or position, but in 1963 there was no structured format for rookies so the Twins outfielder would be grouped with the Mets, Pirates and Indians infielders.
Big bold banner covers the top of the card indicating “Rookie Stars.” Headshots on red highlighted dots with a yellow background give it lots of color and eye-appeal. The entire design sits on two-thirds of a white border. The card back gives us stats with an orange background.
These should not be hard to find, the set was printed in a series of 3 print runs. Cards 1-288 were printed first and typically were released at the start of the season when interest was very high. Series 3 is the scarcest due to lower print runs and a lack of collector interest.
As of the date of this post raw copies can be purchased between $20.00-$50.00; graded Near Mint copies (7’s) sell for $65.00-$135.00 and Near Mint-Mint copies (8’s) sell in the $295.00-$370.00 range.
Happy Collecting Collectors,
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