If not for the botched Bay of Pigs invasion, Minnesota might never have known one of its most popular baseball players, Twins three-time batting champion and eight-time All-Star Tony Oliva. In April 1961, the twenty-two-year-old Cuban prospect failed to impress the Twins in a tryout, but the sudden rupture in U.S.-Cuba relations made a return visa all but impossible. The story of how Oliva’s unexpected stay led to a second chance and success with the Twinsas well as decades of personal and cultural isolationis told for the first time in this full-scale biography of the man the fans affectionately call “Tony O.”
With unprecedented access to the very private Oliva, baseball writer Thom Henninger captures what life was like for the Cuban newcomer as he adjusted to major league play and American cultureand at the same time managed to earn Rookie of the Year honors and win the American League batting title in his first two seasons, all while playing with a knuckle injury. Packed with never-before-published photographs, the book follows Oliva through the 1965 season, all the way to the World Series, and then, with repaired knuckle and knee, into one of the most dramatic pennant races in baseball history in 1967. Through the voices of Oliva, his family, and his teammatesincluding the Cuban players who shared his cultural challenges and the future Hall of Famers he mentored, Rod Carew and Kirby Puckettthe personal and professional highs and lows of the years come alive: the Gold Glove Award in 1966, a third batting title in 1971, the devastating injury that curtailed his career, and, through it all, the struggle to build a family and recover the large and close-knit one he had left behind in Cuba.
Nearly forty years after Oliva’s retirement, the debate continues over whether his injury-shortened career was Hall of Fame calibera question that gets a measured and resounding answer here.
|Publisher:||University of Minnesota Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Thom Henninger, a St. Paul native and lifelong Twins fan, is associate editor at Baseball Digest. His work has appeared in ESPN Insider, and for more than seventeen years he wrote for STATS LLC, where his column “Thom’s Take” ran weekly. He has authored player profiles for Baseball America and contributed to Play It Again: Baseball Experts on What Might Have Been.
Patrick Reusse is a sportswriter and radio personality in the Twin Cities. He writes weekly columns for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.
Table of Contents
Foreword Patrick ReussePreface1. Young Pedro 2. Life after Cuba Closes3. The Minor Leagues4. A Fast Start to a Big League Career5. Injured Rookie Wins Unprecedented Batting Crown6. Oliva Leads Pennant Push7. Life’s Highs and Lows8. The Great Pennant Race of 19679. Marriage and Family in the Year of the Pitcher10. Baseball’s Summer of Change11. Twins Repeat with a New Bill in Charge12. Family Reunions and the Career-Changing Knee Injury13. The Extremes of 197214. The Final Years as a Player15. Tony O: The ManEpilogue: The Hall of Fame QuestionAcknowledgmentsIndex
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've been a big Tony Olivia fan my whole life and was really looking forward to this book. Save your money, this is the most dreadfully boring book I've read in a long time. It is page after page of Olivia went 2 for 4, Olivia went 1 for 5, Olivia went 3 for 5, ect, ect. If you want to know about Tony Olivia the person it tells you very little.