Simply Baseball Notebook's Forgotten In Time

Al Oliver

Hilton Smith
Larry Doby
Seattle Pilots
1994 Expos
Ray Chapman
Flashes in the Pan
Steve Blass
St. Louis Browns
Wally Pipp
Rocky Colavito
Dom DiMaggio
Ellis Valentine
Bill Buckner
Jim Bottomley
The Federal League
Stuart 'Slim' Jones
Billy Hamilton
Ed Delahanty
Eddie Waitkus
George Davis
Riggs Stephenson
1920 White Sox
Luke Easter
Herb Washington
Eddie Robinson
Bobby Mathews
Jimmy Ryan
A.G. Spalding
"Dummy" Hoy
Albert Belle
Jack Quinn
Ken Williams
Al Oliver
Jack Taylor
Fred Lindstrom
Jim Thorpe


Pittsburgh Pirates 1968-77
Texas Rangers 1978-81
Monteal Expos 1982-83
San Francisco Giants 1984
Philadelphia Phillies 1984
Los Angeles Dodgers 1985
Toronto Blue Jays 1985

The next time you hear somebody whining that a player like Don Mattingly or Keith Hernandez should be in the Hall of Fame, point out Al Oliver’s career to them.  A seven-time All Star and .303 career hitter with over 2,700 hits, Oliver’s window for enshrinement has long since closed.


Born Albert Oliver Jr. on October 14, 1946 in Portsmouth, OH, he was drafted out of high school by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1964.  After a brief call-up in 1968, he joined the major league roster for good the following season.  Playing mostly first base, the rookie hit .285 with 17 homers and 70 RBI in 129 games.  He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.


While Oliver was an immediate success with the bat, his glove was a different story.  On May 23, 1969, he tied a dubious major league record by committing three errors in one inning.  In 1970, the Pirates moved him into the outfield, where he would stay until the later stages of his career.


Oliver’s .312 average and 89 RBI helped Pittsburgh capture the NL East title in 1970, but the team was upended by Cincinnati in the NLCS.  While Oliver’s production took a slight dip in 1971 (.282, 64 RBI), it didn’t stop the Pirates from winning the NL pennant and defeating the favored Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.


The 6-0, 195 lb. line-drive hitting outfielder remained in Pittsburgh for the next six seasons and performed consistently well, hitting over .300 four times.  In December of 1977 however, Oliver was dealt to the lowly Texas Rangers in a four team deal.


While the Rangers were never contenders, Oliver, who wore #0, maintained a high level of play, hitting .324, .323, .319, and .309 during his four years in Texas.  In 1980, he established a career high in RBI, with 117, and hits, 209.  He left Texas as the franchise’s all time leading hitter, with a .319 mark.


Just before the start of the 1982 season, the Ohio native found himself on the move again, when he was dealt to the Montreal Expos for Larry Parrish and Dave Hostetler.  The trade was a godsend for Oliver; he led the NL with a .331 average, 109 RBI, 204 hits, 43 doubles, 317 total bases, set a career high with 22 homeruns, and finished third in the NL MVP voting.  With that season, he became the first player to compile 200 hits and drive in 100 runs in a season in both the American and National Leagues.


In 1983, the loquacious veteran hit .300 and again led the league in doubles with 38, but was once again on the move.  In February of 1984, he was shipped to San Francisco in a four player trade. The 36-year-old was hitting .298 for the Giants when he was dealt to Philadelphia in August.  Despite the turmoil, Oliver managed to finish the season with a .301 average.  It was his ninth straight, and final, .300+ season.


1985 was more of the same for the veteran. In February he was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Pat Zachary, and in July, he was dealt again, this time to the Toronto Blue Jays for Len Matuszek.  The Jays were his fifth team in three years.


Oliver finished the 1985 season with a career low .252 average. He was however, able to enjoy one last moment in the sun by helping the Blue Jays win their first AL East crown.  In the ALCS, Oliver collected two game winning hits and the Jays raced out to a 3-1 series lead before falling in seven games to the eventual world champion Kansas City Royals.


After 18 big league seasons, Oliver called it quits.  His career totals include a .303 average, 2,743 hits, 1,326 RBI, 219 homeruns, and 529 doubles.  In 1991, his first year of eligibility, Oliver received just 19 Hall of Fame votes, while 23 were required to stay on the ballot. 


Today Oliver, who was known for his upbeat attitude during his playing days, works as a motivational speaker.


-David Zingler, September 2004


Oliver @

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