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Al Oliver

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Albert Oliver, Jr. (born October 14, 1946 in Portsmouth, Ohio) is a former Major League Baseball player. Over the course of his 18-year career, he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates (1968–77), Texas Rangers (1978–81), Montreal Expos (1982–83), San Francisco Giants (1984), Philadelphia Phillies (1984), Los Angeles Dodgers (1985) and Toronto Blue Jays (1985). Nicknamed "Scoop", Oliver batted and threw left-handed.

Oliver was a center fielder who also played left and right as well as first base. He was signed by the Pirates as an amateur free agent in 1964. From 1970-76 he played on five Pirates division champions, including the team that defeated the Orioles in the 1971 World Series.


Pittsburgh Pirates (1968-77)Edit

Oliver was called to the Major Leagues on September 14, 1968, which was the day his father, Al Oliver, Sr., died.[1] He appeared in 4 games that season. In his official rookie season, Oliver batted .285 with 17 home runs and drove in 70 runs, placing second in the 1969 National League Rookie of the Year voting. The following season, 1970, Oliver hit .270 and was fifth in the NL with seven sacrifice files. He also finished second in the league with the 14 times he was hit by a pitch (the previous year he was plunked 12 times, fourth in the league). The Pirates won the National League East title for their first trip to the postseason since winning the 1960 World Series. However, they lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the NLCS.

On September 1, 1971, the Pirates fielded what is believed to be the first all-black lineup in the history of the league. Oliver played first base, joining second baseman Rennie Stennett, center fielder Gene Clines, right fielder Roberto Clemente, left fielder Willie Stargell, catcher Manny Sanguillén, third baseman Dave Cash, shortstop Jackie Hernández and pitcher Dock Ellis in the starting lineup.[2] Oliver ended the season with a .282 average, including 31 doubles (8th in the NL), seven triples (10th), 10 sacrifice flies (2nd), and five hit-by-pitches (good for 9th in the league). After beating the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS, the Pirates won the World Series, beating the Baltimore Orioles in seven games with Oliver as their regular center fielder.

In 1972 Oliver raised his batting average to .312, good for sixth in the league. He hit 12 home runs with 89 RBI (10th in the NL). He scored 88 runs (8th in the league) and totalled 176 hits, which was also 8th in the NL. Oliver was named to his first All-Star game while finishing seventh in the NL MVP voting. Oliver hit 20 home runs and drive in 99 runs (7th in the NL) while batting .292. Again he was among the league-leaders in hits (191, fifth in the NL), total bases (303, fifth in NL), doubles (38, second in NL), triples (7, eighth in NL), sacrifice flies (nine, 3rd in NL) and extra-base hits with 65, which put him in the top ten for the first of his five times in the league's top ten in that category. The Pirates won their third consecutive NL East title, however they lost to the Reds 3 games to 2 in the NLCS. The Pirates offense led the National League in batting average with a .274 average and led the NL with 1505 hits.

In 1974, Oliver hit .321 with 198 hits which were second and fourth in the National League respectively. He also hit 38 doubles and 12 triples which were both second best in the NL. Oliver was seventh in NL MVP voting for the second time in three years. About Oliver, Willie Stargell said, "When it came to hitting . . . all he ever did was crush the ball. Al was the perfect number three hitter because you knew he was going to make contact". He had a 23-game hitting streak in 1974 and another streak of 21 games where he got at least one hit. The Pirates won the NL East but lost to the Dodgers 3 games to 1 in the NLCS. The Pirates offense, known as the "Pittsburgh Lumber Company" again led the NL in hitting with 1560 hits and a .274 team batting average.

Oliver's 90 runs in 1975 was tenth in the NL as he hit .280 with 18 home runs and 84 RBI and played in the All-Star game for the second time. He tied a personal mark with 65 extra base hits which was good for 5th in the NL, 39 of which were doubles which put him third in the NL in that category. He was named as an outfielder on The Sporting News 1975 NL All-Star Team. The Pirates won the NL East again, but were swept by the Cincinnati Reds 3 games to none in the NLCS.

In 1976 Oliver hit .323; this was his first of nine straight .300+ seasons. He played in the All-Star game once again, batting .360 at break, but an inner ear infection sidelined him in the second half, and prevented him from finishing in the top 10 in batting categories. He was voted the National League Player of the Month for June. In 1977, as part of the so-called "Pittsburgh Lumber Company", Oliver hit .308 (tenth in the NL) with 19 home runs and 82 RBI. His 175 hits were 10th in the NL. he also stole a career-high 13 bases, although he was thrown out 16 times along the way. His 8 sacrifice flies were fifth in the league as well.

Texas Rangers (1978-81)Edit

On December 8, 1977, he was traded as part of a 4-team trade by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Nelson Norman to the Texas Rangers. The Atlanta Braves sent Willie Montanez to the New York Mets. The Texas Rangers sent Adrian Devine, Tommy Boggs, and Eddie Miller to the Atlanta Braves. The Texas Rangers sent a player to be named later and Tom Grieve to the New York Mets. The Texas Rangers sent Bert Blyleven to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The New York Mets sent Jon Matlack to the Texas Rangers. The New York Mets sent John Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Texas Rangers later sent Ken Henderson to the New York Mets to complete the trade.

In 1978 Oliver was second in the AL with a .324 batting average and his 170 hits here good for eighth in the league and his 35 doubles were sixth in the league. The next season, 1979, Oliver hit .323, good for fifth in the league (the fifth time he had finished among his league's top ten in batting.

Wearing the number 0 on his uniform, Oliver played in all of Texas's 163 games in 1980, and reached career highs in hits (209, fourth in the AL), doubles (43, second in the AL) and RBI (117, fourth in the AL) while batting .319, which was eighth in the American League. He was voted to the AL All-Star team for the first time. Oliver was the outfielder on The Sporting News 1980 AL Silver Slugger Team. On August 17 at Tiger Stadium, he established an American League record with 21 total bases in a doubleheader (four home runs, a double and a triple).

In 1981 Oliver was ninth in the AL with a .309 average, sixth in hits with 130, second in doubles with 29 while playing in the All-Star game (his 5th). He also won his second consecutive Silver Slugger Award as the best hitter at his position, which in 1981 was designated hitter.

Montreal Expos (1982-83)Edit

On March 31, 1982, after he became the Rangers' all-time leading hitter (.319) and reached the club's top ten in virtually every offensive category he was traded to the Montreal Expos for Larry Parrish and Dave Hostetler.

In 1982 with the Expos, Oliver hit a career-high .331 batting average to win the National League batting crown. He also led the NL in hits (204), doubles (43), extra bases (67), and total bases (317), and tied with Dale Murphy for the RBI lead with 109. His doubles tied his 1980 career-high and his 67 extra base hit was also a career-high as well has his 22 home runs, breaking his 1973 personal best. In addition to playing in his sixth All-Star game he was 3rd in the NL MVP voting and won his 3rd consecutive Silver Slugger Award, this time as a first baseman. He was also the first baseman on The Sporting News NL All-Star Team.

In 1983 Oliver led the NL in doubles with 38 and was fourth in the NL in hits with 184. He hit .300 once again and topped the 2500 career hit level (August 10, 1983, off Mets' pitcher Carlos Diaz). and Oliver was selected for his seventh All-Star game, starting at first base in the 1983 Classic.

Giants, Phillies, Dodgers, Blue Jays (1984-85)Edit

On February 27, 1984, Oliver was traded San Francisco Giants for Fred Breining and Max Venable. The San Francisco Giants later sent Andy McGaffigan to the Montreal Expos to complete the trade. Later that same year, on August 20, 1984, he was again traded, this time with Renie Martin to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kelly Downs and George Riley.

In the 1985 offseason, Oliver was traded by the Phillies to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Pat Zachry. Then, on July 9, 1985, he was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Toronto Blue Jays for Len Matuszek. With the Blue Jays, Oliver delivered two game-winning hits in the first four games of the 1985 American League Championship Series against Kansas City. However, the Royals rallied to win the last three games. (In the seventh and deciding game, the lefty Oliver started as the DH against right-hander Bret Saberhagen. But after pitching three scoreless innings, Saberhagen departed the game in favour of lefty Charlie Leibrandt, thus giving the Royals the platoon advantage. Right-handed batter Cliff Johnson pinch hit for Oliver, and struck out, ending a Blue Jays rally. Oliver was caught by TV cameras angrily scowling in the dugout, knowing his night—and as it turned out, his season and career—were over.) Oliver batted .375 for the series.

Oliver claims that due to baseball collusion he was forced to retire. Courts did prove that there was collusion among baseball owners in the mid-1980s to suppress baseball salaries, but it has not been shown that it had a direct effect on Oliver. Several players, including Kirk Gibson, were allowed to file for free agency a second time because of the court order based on the "collusion" finding.[3] Andre Dawson said, "Al, as a lifetime .300 hitter after 18 seasons, I feel is deserving of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There is no question in my mind had he not been forced out of the game by collusion, had he been given an all out honest attempt to achieve 3,000 hits, he would have done it. He was pushed out of the game when he was still a .300 hitter. I feel he deserves a place in baseball today."


Al Oliver was a career .303 hitter with 219 home runs and 1326 RBI in 2368 games. He batted .300 or more eleven times and retired with 2,743 hits (45th on the all-time list). He also ranks among all-time top 50 in games played (2368), total bases (4083), RBI (1326) and extra-base hits (825). He was among the league's top ten in doubles nine times and among the league's top ten in hits nine times as well and finished in the top ten in batting average nine times. Five times he was among the league's top ten in total bases and four times he was in the top ten in RBIs. Because of these feats, his name has been mentioned more than once as a possible inductee into the Baseball Hall Of Fame.


See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

Template:S-endTemplate:NL batting titleTemplate:AL OF Silver Slugger AwardTemplate:AL DH Silver Slugger AwardTemplate:NL 1B Silver Slugger AwardTemplate:1971 Pittsburgh Pirates
Preceded by:
George Foster
Tim Wallach
National League Player of the Month
June 1976
June 1982
Succeeded by:
George Foster
Mike Schmidt
Preceded by:
Bill Madlock
National League Batting Champion
Succeeded by:
Bill Madlock
Preceded by:
Mike Schmidt
National League RBI Champion
(with Dale Murphy)
Succeeded by:
Dale Murphy

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