If Tony Oliva did not suffer from bad knees would he have been inducted already? Many people think so, as his first eight seasons showed off one of the game’s great contact hitters who won the batting title three times. After 1971 however the bad knees of Tony Oliva created a ballplayer that was just a fraction of what he once was.
Those first eight years for Tony Oliva showcased an athlete who had few faults. He hit for average in an era that had few who could. He had decent power and was an asset with the glove. If there was a liability it would be that he didn’t walk much, but considering everything else he could do it was a minor criticism. Oliva was an All Star in his first eight years and he earned every slot.
The greatness of Tony Oliva essentially ended on June 29, 1971 when he collided with Joe Rudi and hurt his knee. He continued to play hurt but he was out for the bulk of the year that followed. When he returned he was unable to help out in the field and was a full time Designated Hitter. Even then he wasn’t the same with the bat and his numbers dipped yearly.
Tony Oliva’s case for Cooperstown can only be made in eight years of his career. Other players have gotten in for being great in similar time frames (Sandy Koufax for one) so it is not like a precedent hasn’t been set. Oliva may not have gotten in during his first run, but he has to be considered a solid candidate for the Veteran’s Committee.
Should Tony Oliva be in the Hall of Fame?
Definitely put him in! - 78.3%
Maybe, but others deserve it first. - 8.7%
Probably not, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. - 5.8%