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Continued: Reusse: Cuba, Castro and Tony O

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 20, 2013 - 9:23 PM

“Minnie Mendoza was playing second base for Charlotte,” Oliva said. “I owe a lot to him. He kept telling Phil Howser, ‘Don’t send Tony back. He’s a great hitter.’ ”

Eventually, Howser placed Oliva with the short-season team in Wytheville, Va. Tony hit .410.

He had a handful of September at-bats for the Twins in 1962 and 1963, and came to stay as the American League’s Rookie of the Year and batting champion in 1964.

Truly came to stay. He and his wife Gordette raised their family in Bloomington, and now that home is a gathering place for four children, and five grandchildren, and right now, siblings visiting Tony from Cuba. Tony and Gordette also visit his family most winters in Pinar del Rio.

Tony turned 75 on Saturday, with a small birthday celebration on a deck at Target Field.

“We had a place in Miami for a few winters, but after two or three weeks, we would say, ‘Let’s go home,’ ” Tony said. “Minnesota, and also Cuba … those are the only places where I feel like I’m home.”

 

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. preusse@startribune.com

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