Tony Oliva will work out, as he does almost every weekday. Jim Kaat will “make it a normal day — maybe get a haircut, play some golf.” But Erin Murphy figures she’s going to cry at some point on Monday. She just doesn’t know precisely why yet.
That’s because more than three years of work by Murphy and more than a dozen members of her extended family have gone into making Monday a joyous occasion for Oliva. The Twins’ Cuban star, along with ex-Twins pitchers Kaat and Luis Tiant and seven other baseball greats, will learn whether they have been elected, decades after their last game, into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“It feels to us like the stars are aligning for Tony,” said Murphy, who three years ago founded, along with her father, Dan, VoteTonyO, an organization devoted to Oliva’s legacy. “But I’m sure it’s going to be pretty emotional. We sunk everything into this, and whether he gets in or not, it’s been a lot of work, I’m not going to lie.”
Murphy grew up across the street from Oliva’s Bloomington home and has known him her entire life — as a friendly and generous neighbor, not a baseball immortal. When the Golden Era committee first considered Oliva in 2011, she and her family convinced fans to send letters to the committee, an impromptu effort that resulted in several hundred letters arriving in Cooperstown. “We heard from one voter who said he had never seen so much mail for a candidate,” Murphy said.
Turns out, that was just a sliver of the Murphys’ campaign skills. They’ve been working ever since toward Sunday’s vote by a 16-member committee, and Monday’s announcement of the winners. They set up booths at the past three TwinsFests (at no cost, thanks to the Twins’ support of their cause) to enlist letter-writers in their effort; printed a variety of postcards for fans to send; and created a coffee-table book highlighting Oliva’s qualifications — not just playing baseball, but his integrity, character and humanitarianism. They did some fundraising, too, to cover stamps and postcards. “Part of it was just informing people that we need their help,” Murphy said. “A lot of Twins fans didn’t realize he’s not in the Hall of Fame.”
When the Hall announced in October this year’s Golden Era ballot (which is voted on every three years), and the 16 Hall of Famers, executives and media members who will vote (with 12 votes required for election), VoteTonyO swung into action. They sent each committee member one of the Oliva books. They encouraged them to explore Oliva’s record deeper, to learn about his efforts to promote the game since his retirement. And they mailed the cards and letters of support they had collected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Twenty thousand pieces of mail.
“I’m not sure how many we planned to collect,” Murphy said, “but we definitely exceeded our goals. People just love Tony.”
Nobody expects committee members to read all that mail, but the Hall of Fame will inform them of the show of support, and will make the pile of mail available to them, Murphy said.
And will all that work pay off?
“It’s hard to believe we’ll finally know on Monday,” she said. “No matter what, it’s been worth it.”