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Monday, March 22, 2010
1967 Topps Twins Team Card with Tony Oliva and Rod Carew
There is a long story behind this autograph card. The story begins during my Spring Training trip three weeks ago to Florida. On March 4, my friend Jim and I visited Fort Myers to see the Twins practice and then saw the Twins and Boston Red Sox play a game that night. Knowing that Tony Oliva was a member of the Twins front office, I had brought his 1967 Topps card, #50 just in case I ran into him. During the day, we waited for the players and coaches to arrive and we noticed that Tony Oliva and Rod Carew had driven to the ballpark together. They drove past the autograph collectors without signing any cards. I guess that was strike one. As the practice progressed, Mr. Oliva was instructing several Twins players in the batting cages along with Rod Carew. After a break in the practice, I asked Tony Oliva if he would be willing to sign my card for my collection.
He refused and said he was working. Strike two. Undeterred, I continued to follow Tony during the practice and at one point he saw me standing alone as he came out of the clubhouse and I asked if he would sign me card. Again, he refused and went back to work. I guess that was a foul ball, no third strike yet. As the practice started to wind down and the players and coaches started the leave the field, Tony was called over by a couple of fans and he started to sign some autographs. As he was signing the autographs, I asked if he would sign my card for my collection. He passed me over a couple of times, but I did not give up. Finally, he took my card and signed it with a blue sharpie that I provided. Persistence paid off.
I thanked Tony Oliva for the autograph, shook his hand and asked if he would take a picture with me and he obliged. That would have been a great story in itself, but it did not end there. After I arrived home, I decided to write Tony a letter apologizing for being so persistent in pursuit of his autograph. Enclosed with the letter, I included two 8x10s of the picture of me and Tony Oliva, two more 1967 Topps cards, the Twins Team card above and the 1966 American League Batting Leaders card, #239, and a gift card to Outback Steakhouse. I asked if he could sign one of the 8x10s and keep the other and asked he if could sign the Batting Leaders card, already signed by Hall of Famer Al Kaline and the Twins Team card. I also asked if he could have Hall of Famer Rod Carew sign the team card as well. I mailed the envelope on March 10, 2010 and received it back 12 days later with both photos signed and both cards signed. Even Rod Carew signed the team card. Thank you very much, Mr Oliva and Mr. Carew!
Tony Oliva's career lasted 15 seasons in major league baseball, all with the Minnesota Twins. He started his career in 1964, winning the American League Rookie of the Year award and named to the American League All-star for the first of eight consecutive seasons. He ended his playing days in 1978 with a career .304 batting average, 220 home runs and 947 runs batted in, 329 doubles and a total of 1917 hits in 1676 games. Tony's eight consecutive All-Star appearances to start his career broke the previous record set by Hall of Famer Joe Dimaggio of the New York Yankees. Tony Oliva won 3 batting titles during his career, 1964, 1965 and 1971 and won a Gold Glove award in 1966. The latter part of his career was hampered by injuries and there has been much debate about his place in baseball history. Considered one of the best players not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Tony Oliva deserves his place in Cooperstown.
To learn more about Tony Oliva and his career, go to his biography at wikipedia.org.
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