Oliver’s HOF fate decided today
LAS VEGAS — Al Oliver’s first experience with baseball’s Hall of Fame election process was brief and not enjoyable.
When the former Pirates standout first became eligible in 1991, he received just 19 votes from baseball writers — a mere 4 percent of the total. Not only was it well short of the requirement for induction, it wasn’t enough to keep Oliver on the ballot.
One and done, Oliver thought.
“I had put the Hall of Fame totally — and I mean totally — out of my mind,” Oliver said. “I just gave up.”
However, Oliver does have a second chance. He’s one of 10 players from the post-1942 era who are under consideration by the Veterans Committee. The election results will be announced today during Major League Baseball’s annual winter meetings.
Also on the ballot are Joe Torre, Ron Santo, Maury Wills, Luis Tiant, Dick Allen, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva and Vada Pinson.
To win induction, a candidate must be supported by 75 percent of the 64 living Hall of Famers, who each may vote for up to four players.
Torre and Santo would figure to be sentimental favorites among the voters. Oliver wonders if the process is too much of a popularity contest and worries that it will hurt his chances.
“If they went just on career (performance), then I’d be somewhat optimistic,” Oliver said. “But with it being a secret ballot, you just don’t know how people are thinking. I’d like to think guys I played with would support me.”
Among the voters are four of Oliver’s former Pirates teammates: Bill Mazeroski, Ralph Kiner, Rich Gossage and Jim Bunning.
“Most people I talk to say my chances should be very good,” Oliver said. “I agree with them, but I wish I could say I’m optimistic.”
Oliver was a first baseman in the minors, but he played mostly center field for the Pirates (1968-77). He also turned in solid seasons with the Texas Rangers (1978-81) and Montreal Expos (1982-83).
At the end of his career, Oliver played for the San Francisco Giants (1984), Philadelphia Phillies (’84), Los Angeles Dodgers (’85) and Toronto Blue Jays (’85).
Over 18 seasons, Oliver batted .303. In 2,368 games, he amassed 2,743 hits, 529 doubles, 219 homers and 1,326 RBI.
Oliver’s career batting stats are similar to those of Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner, Dave Parker, Roberto Clemente, Enos Slaughter and Garrett Anderson.
Oliver ranks 30th on the all-time doubles list and finished among the top 10 in the MVP voting three times. He had two 200-hit seasons and batted .300 or better 11 times.
He was the first player to reach 200 hits and 100 RBI in a season in both the American and National leagues.
Oliver is close to the magical 3,000-hit mark, which all but ensures Hall of Fame entry. But one knock against Oliver is his relatively low power numbers.
Oliver’s supporters make an intriguing argument based on the “runs created” stat. The formula, created by baseball statistician Bill James, factors hits, walks and total bases to determine a player’s true offensive output.
From 1961-99, Oliver ranked first among center fielders with 1,341 runs created. All but one of the other leaders, by position, in that time frame are in the Hall of Fame. The exception is Pete Rose, who’s banned from the Hall for betting on games.
“You can’t trick the fans,” Oliver said. “They saw the hustle. They saw that I had to go from position to position for the betterment of the teams. I never cheated the fans.”
Here’s a list of leaders, by position, in runs created from 1961-99:
Pos.-Player â¢ Runs created*
C-Carlton Fisk â¢ 1,362
1B-Pete Rose â¢ 2,205
2B-Joe Morgan â¢ 1,804
3B-George Brett â¢ 1,869
SS-Robin Yount â¢ 1,644
LF-Carl Yastrzemski â¢ 2,127
CF-Al Oliver â¢ 1,341
RF-Dave Winfield â¢ 1,796
DH-Paul Molitor â¢ 1,869
*?A Bill James formula that includes hits, walks and total bases