02/18/07 10:00 AM ET
Oliva finds place on Veterans ballot
Twins legend hopes productive career results in enshrinement
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
August Busch Jr.
"I put up a lot of great numbers," said Oliva, who now works as a community ambassador for the Twins. "I know my career was short, but I did things no one did before. I wasn't just a great hitter -- I did a lot of other stuff. I could run, I could throw and catch. I was an all-around ballplayer."Oliva's career might have ended prematurely, but his presence with the Twins certainly has not. Since his playing days, Oliva has become a strong force in the Twin Cities community, and it's been a huge part of his effort to cement his legacy in Minnesota. "When you're around Tony, you always get to hear a great bunch of stories and find out things that you never knew," Twins catcher Joe Mauer said. "That is one of the reasons that everyone loves him so much." Oliva is one of 25 former players on this year's Veterans ballot. The Veterans Committee votes in alternating years, and during the last ballot, in 2005, no one received the required 75 percent to be elected. Earning the honor of enshrinement into Cooperstown would certainly be a crowning achievement for Oliva, but it's not something that would overshadow all that he was able to accomplish during his career. For Oliva, it's the appreciation of being able to play at all that is his lasting legacy. "How could a little guy like me from Cuba get to the U.S. and play in the big leagues?" Oliva said. "It's a big miracle. I came from a small town in Cuba, from a poor family. But somehow, I came here and played with the best baseball players in the world. It's unbelievable."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.