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HOF remains elusive for Oliva
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02/26/2003  4:25 PM ET 
HOF remains elusive for Oliva
Former Twins great played 15 years in Minnesota
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Tony Oliva was an eight-time All-Star, a three-time batting champ and the 1964 AL Rookie of the Year. (AP)
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Baseball Hall of Fame has proven to be quite elusive for Tony Oliva.

The former Minnesota Twins great, one of 26 finalists on the Veteran's Committee players ballot this year, was passed over once again Wednesday. But in a stark symbol of just how difficult it can sometimes be to obtain baseball immortality, no one else from the Veteran's ballot will go into the Hall, either.

"It would have been nice if somebody got in," Oliva said.

There were a total of 81 votes cast by the 85-person committee, which includes the 58 living members of the Hall. With 75 percent of the vote required for election, former Brooklyn Dodgers great Gil Hodges led the way with 50 votes or 61.7 percent.

Oliva finished behind Hodges in second place with 48 votes or 59.3 percent.

Hall of Fame 2003

Induction Ceremony
Sunday, July 27
Cooperstown, New York

The inductees
Gary Carter | Eddie Murray

Schedule of weekend events
Complete coverage

"I want to thank all the people that voted for me," Oliva said. "I also want to thank those who didn't vote for me. I'm glad they took part in the process."

The Veteran's Committee voting system was revamped this year. Instead of a secret ballot cast by only a few selected members, the system was changed to a vote that included all living members of the Hall with the results made public. That may have affected the outcome, Oliva felt.

Players ballot
 PLAYERVOTES%
 Gil Hodges5061.7%
 Tony Oliva4859.3%
 Ron Santo4656.8%
 Joe Torre2935.8%
 Maury Wills2429.6%
 Vada Pinson2125.9%
 Joe Gordon1923.5%
 Roger Maris1822.2%
 Marty Marion1721.0%
 Carl Mays1619.8%
 Minnie Minoso1619.8%
 Allie Reynolds1619.8%
 Dick Allen1316.0%
 Mickey Lolich1316.0%
 Wes Ferrell1214.8%
 Ken Boyer1113.6%
 Don Newcombe1113.6%
 Curt Flood1012.3%
 Ken R. Williams89.9%
 Rocky Colavito78.6%
 Elston Howard67.4%
 Bob Meusel67.4%
 Bobby Bonds56.2%
 Ted Kluszewski44.9%
 Thurman Munson44.9%
 Mike G. Marshall33.7%
Composite ballot
 PLAYERVOTES%
 Doug Harvey4860.8
 Walter O'Malley3848.1
 Marvin Miller3544.3
 Buzzie Bavasi3443.0
 Dick Williams3341.8
 Whitey Herzog2531.6
 Billy Martin2227.8
 Bill White2227.8
 Bowie Kuhn2025.3
 Gabe Paul1316.5
 August Busch1113.9
 Paul Richards1012.7
 Charley Finley911.4
 Phil Wrigley911.4
 Harry Dalton67.6
"I did think there were a few people that had a good chance," he said. "But this is the first time they've done it this way. They had a difficult job and they tried to do the best they could."

In his 15 years with the Twins (11 full seasons), Oliva batted.304 with 220 home runs, 870 runs scored and 947 RBIs. A frequently-injured right knee toward the end of his career robbed him of the opportunity to play longer and post loftier statistics.

"I know my career wasn't a long one," Oliva said. "But other players had a short career and they're in the Hall of Fame."

There is no denying, however, that Oliva accomplished many great feats in the first decade of his career. He was the 1964 AL Rookie of the Year and a three-time batting champ -- the first in history to win that title in his first two seasons. There were also appearances in eight-straight All-Star games (1964-71) and a Gold Glove Award, won in 1966.

Former teammate Frank Quilici recently said that Oliva deserves enshrinement, despite his lack of career longevity and truncated numbers.

"In my estimation, there's never been a better hitter," said Quilici, who also coached and managed Oliva at Minnesota. "I'd say he's equal to the best whose put a uniform on.

"If you talk to the starting pitchers in the American League over the 10-year period that he played and ask them who was the most feared hitter that they faced. They'd probably tell you it was Oliva."

Oliva's long wait to get into the Hall is now extended for two more years. His next opportunity for election is not until the next Veteran's Committee vote in 2005.

"I've been waiting for twenty-something years," he said. "I've never lost hope."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This report was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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