A story on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website sums up the major-league career of Tony Oliva: "For his first eight full big league seasons, few in baseball could conceive of a better hitter than Tony Oliva."
After brief appearances with the Minnesota Twins at the end of the 1962 and 1963 seasons, Oliva was named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1964. In each of his first eight full major-league seasons (1964-71) he was named an All-Star. During that time he won three A.L. batting titles and led the league in hits five times.
Over his final five seasons with the Twins, Oliva was limited because of injuries and eight knee operations. The National Baseball Hall of Fame concludes, "But no injury could remove Oliva's impression from those who saw the left-handed line drive master at his peak. 'He was as good as any hitter of his time… Better,' said Lou Piniella."
Oliva was born in Pinar del Rio Province in Cuba (about 100 miles southwest of Havana). Oliva's father, who had played semi-pro baseball, urged Tony to sign with the Twins after Joe Cambria, a scout for the Minnesota Twins, recommended Tony be offered a contract.
In his rookie season, Oliva won the A.L. batting title (.323 average) and led the league in hits (217) to become the first player ever to win both the Rookie of the Year Award and A.L. batting title in the same season.
Oliva won the A.L. batting title again in 1965 with a .321 batting average to help the Minnesota Twins win the A.L. title.
Oliva won his third batting title in 1971 with a .337 batting average. Oliva, who won a Gold Glove as an outfielder in 1966, spent the final four seasons of his career as the Twins designated hitter.
Oliva finished with a .304 career batting average, 220 home runs and 947 RBI.
After retiring as a player, he served as a Twins coach from 1976-78 and 1985-1991. He is the only on-field team member to appear with all three Minnesota Twins World Series teams (1965, 1987 and 1991).
The Twins retired his uniform number (#6) in 1991 and in 2000, he was part of the inaugural class of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.
Team: Minnesota Twins.