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Harmon Killebrew On David Letterman!?

With the appearance of Joe Mauer last week on Jimmy Fallon, I was reminded of another episode of a famous Twin who appeared on late ni...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Snapshots From Twins Territory - Tony Oliva, Circa 1961-63

We embark on a new series with these vintage Kodaks from the early 1960's. Here's a very young Tony Oliva in what surely is his first or second spring training with the Minnesota Twins.

By the looks of him, he couldn't have been more than 22-23 years old.  A portrait of a young hitter, taken at Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, the first spring training facility of the Twins! He would draw tons of attention by the end of 1962 in national publications, such as in this Sporting News piece from October, 1962 (which has an interesting tidbit about Harmon Killebrew, by the way!).

It was the Cold War era, with JFK in the White House, and the Viet Nam War years still out on the horizon, King and Civil Rights. All pretty remarkable, hard to take in from our vantage point in time...the dawning of the turbulent 1960's - - and in Tony-O's case, it was the dawn for a guy with incredible talent, hand-eye coordination, and passion for his sport.

These are the images of a rangy, athletic-looking  guy with his whole life, and lots of success in front of him. The inescapable thought surfaces: what could have been. Tony Oliva was well on his way to a career that was going to see him ending up with the all-time greats...his accomplishments (as listed at Tony, were layering the case for his enshrinement in the National Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. 

Tony was mentioned with the greats of the game in the period 1964-1971, right up there with Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, as the great rightfielders in baseball.  Run, throw, hit, with great instincts...he could do it all.  He was in the process of winning his third American League batting title in 1971 when tragedy struck.

While trying to make a diving catch of a Joe Rudi drive in 9th inning, on June 29, 1971 at Oakland, Tony injured his right knee.  He would never be the same.  Despite subsequent surgeries, the knee would never pivot and give him the same drive and support he had had in his magnificent, fluid swing.

May Your Taters Fly Far -
Twinkler Out!

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