Former Hornets Slugger Takes His Place in Cooperstown
December 6, 2021
Tony Oliva, an eight-time American League All-Star and two-time World Series Champion, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, December 5 as part of the Golden Days Era Committee. Oliva joined three others also elected by that committee on Sunday -- Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat and
Tony Oliva, an eight-time American League All-Star and two-time World Series Champion, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, December 5 as part of the Golden Days Era Committee. Oliva joined three others also elected by that committee on Sunday -- Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat and Minnie Miñoso. In addition, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil were elected by the Early Era Baseball Committee. A total of six new Hall of Famers were elected on Sunday.
Already a member of the Charlotte Baseball Hall of Fame & Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame, Oliva finally took his rightful place in Cooperstown on Sunday – 45 years after retiring from the majors in 1976. The 83-year-old, who visited Charlotte back in 2017, was thrilled to receive the call.
SIXTH HALL OF FAMER FROM CHARLOTTE Oliva became the sixth player to come through Charlotte to be elected to the Hall of Fame, joining Early Wynn (Hornets), Harmon Killebrew (Hornets), Eddie Murray (Orioles), Cal Ripken Jr. (O's) & Jim Thome (Knights).
EARLY YEARS Born in Pinar de Rio, Cuba on July 20, 1938, Oliva was discovered by a Minnesota Twins scout and came to the United States in 1961. Later that year after traveling to Charlotte and impressing Hornets GM Phil Howser, Oliva eventually made his professional debut as a 22-year-old with Wytheville (Appalachian League). In 64 games that year, he hit .410 (102-for-249) with 10 home runs and 81 RBIs.
CHARLOTTE HORNETS SLUGGER Oliva made his Charlotte baseball debut in 1962 with the Hornets. That season, the Cuban native hit an impressive .350 with 17 home runs and 93 RBIs in 127 games. It was truly a remarkable season for the 23-year-old, making headlines in the Queen City throughout the year.
Later that year, Oliva made his major league debut with the Twins and appeared in nine games that season in the majors. He hit .444 (4-for-9) with the Twins that year and spent the following season in Triple-A with Dallas-Fort Worth. Playing for Jack McKeon that year (1963), Oliva hit .304 with 23 home runs and 94 RBIs in his final year in the minors. He then went on to have a legendary major league career.
MAJOR LEAGUE CAREER Oliva played 15 seasons in the majors from 1962-1976 -- all with the Twins. Over the course of his career, he won the 1964 American League Rookie of the Year Award, three American League batting titles (1964, 1965, and 1971) and a Rawlings Gold Glove Award (1966).
Overall, he finished with a lifetime batting average of .304 with 1,907 hits, 220 home runs and 947 RBIs.
RETURN TO CHARLOTTE Oliva and Minnie Mendoza, another legendary player for the Charlotte Hornets and a coach for the Charlotte O's, were welcomed back to Truist Field in Uptown Charlotte on May 16, 2017 to meet fans and sign autographs. The two legends spent the day meeting fans and sharing stories about their careers -- especially their time in Charlotte.
MORE ON TONY & MINNIE Mendoza, like Oliva, was born in Cuba and spent time as a player with the Charlotte Hornets. Mendoza played a total of 10 seasons for the Hornets (1960-61, 63-68, & 71-72) and later coached the Charlotte O's. In 1972, Mendoza hit .316 over 131 games for the Hornets. He made his Major League Baseball debut on April 9, 1970 with the Minnesota Twins and appeared in 16 games with the Twins over the course of his career.
For their efforts with the Charlotte Hornets and their contributions to Charlotte baseball over the years, Oliva and Mendoza were among the inaugural class of inductees into the Charlotte Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. Revived and renamed the "Charlotte Baseball Round Table of Honor" in 2016, Oliva and Mendoza returned to Charlotte in 2017 to be honored as part of a celebration of 125 years of Charlotte Baseball history (1892 to present) and the 35th Anniversary of that inaugural Hall of Fame class of 1982.