Friday, March 3, 2017

#50 Minnesota Twin Outfielder - Tony Oliva -

Baseball spring training is heating up. I haven't yet come down from the high of seeing the Chicago Cubs not only in a World Series but winning one and to do it dramatically, coming back from down 3 to 1. I was content to enjoy that lone Wrigley Field  World Series win and hope for the best back in Cleveland. What followed, was a pleasant shock. Perhaps in hindsight, I shouldn't have felt that way. The Cubs struck out alot but they had a better team batting average than the Indians and a lower ERA than Cleveland. Stats are just stats, it's the wins that count but more often than not, the team with the better stats in a series win it in the end.

I was gravitating back to baseball and away from football before last season but my interest in this set has increased.

We're back to a card ending with a 5 or 0 so we have another contemporary star card from the mid 60s. Tony Oliva was one of the major Latin American stars of his day. Like in every sport, when one team is able to find first class talent in a new way, the others follow their lead. Tony Oliva was not just a great player, he was a pioneering great along with Orlando Cepeda and Felipe Alou. Technically, Oliva followed their lead but unlike them, Oliva was featured in eight straight All Star games as well as the '65 Series. Perhaps it was that the Minnesota Twins, like the San Francisco Giants, added more than one or two players from south of the border. Along with Oliva, the Twins had Cesar Tobar,Zoilo Versalles, Camilo Pasqual,and Sandy Valdespino on a team that took the Dodgers to 7 games in another nail biter of a fall classic in 1965,

Sure, Latin American players go back to the late 40s in the Majors but the trend of teams scouting in this area of the world didn't take hold until the 60s. Horace Clarke, Rico Carty, Manny Mota, Felix Mantilla, Juan Marichal and the three Alou brothers come to mind immediately. It is hard to imagine today's game without such talented players from Latin America taking it to the next level.

Oliva finished up as a career .300 hitter and perhaps the only reason he does not receive regular consideration for Hall of Fame honors is his somewhat short career. He played in 14 seasons but his career totals on offense are an apparent handicap for Hall honors.

Oliva was certainly one of the premiere players on a strong Minnesota ball club and few got higher recognition in his day than him.

The card features Oliva posing in the original Yankee Stadium with the trademark facade in the background. Other Twin players featured in this set were clearly taken in this location, if not the same day.

There is a change with Twin cards in the '67 set. A combo card has the banner on the bottom colored in deep purple block letters, Twin cards in the lower to mid series have the green lettering and, for some reason, the semi high Killebrew card has bright yellow letters for the tea name.

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