For the last three years, the Murphy family has tried to answer a single question: how can we help get Tony Oliva in the Hall of Fame?
|The Vote Tony O Team|
That's not an easy question to answer, and as someone who writes more than he takes action, I'm a little worried that I can't do much. After all, baseball writing focuses on providing clear and concise answers to clear and concise questions. Which player won the game? Which team lost the trade? Who's washed up? Who's the future? There's a quick answer to each of those questions and a swath of data to support any answer you give: box scores and power splits, defensive metrics and pitch mapping.
But when it comes to addressing Hall of Fame worthiness, things get trickier. For instance one advanced measure, which analyzes an array of statistics and contexts, puts Tony ahead of no-doubt-legends like Joe DiMaggio and Frank Robinson, but behind such faded who-the-hecks as Gavvy Cravath and Harry Stovey.
"The numbers are easy", says Mike Murphy, one of Vote Tony O's spokespeople. "[They've] all been a record since 1976, but it's a little bit harder for us to quantify what Tony means to the community."
Fuzzy though the quantification is, it's certain that Tony Oliva means a lot to his communities. He is and has been a role model for Cuban players coming to America. He served as a cornerstone of the Twins for the past 50 years as a player, a coach on both World Series winning clubs, and an announcer for our increasingly diverse fan base. Above all, he stands out as an indefatigable ambassador for the game, the team and life itself.
Over the years Murphy and his family have seen this more than most people. "Tony loves being Tony. Tony loves being the guy that people want to come up and meet and touch and get an autograph. He loves everybody that comes up to him; he bends over backwards for these people, and it's because he truly enjoys it. "
But the Murphy's won't forget that passion, because they can't forget one of the rare times Oliva was dispirited rather than optimistic: winter 2011, the last time Tony was up for election. Mike Murphy remembers the push to the ballot. Remembers they day of the announcement. Remembers how "exactly the way you think it would be in your head, [that] was the way it was. You know the clock ticking and nobody talking, then depression sets in.
"And the weird thing was Tony wasn't depressed he didn't get into the Hall of Fame. He's at peace with it; he's fine. That part's not a big deal. I'm sure he wants it, but the fact that he isn't in there? He's okay with it.
"The part that disappointed him and bothered him was that he felt that he let his fans down...This is 35-ish years after the last baseball game he played. He was disappointed not because he didn't make it, but because he let his fans down."
So while others might shake their heads and moved on with their lives, the people behind Vote Tony O have taken up a three year campaign to push for Oliva's induction. They tweet. They promote. And they inundate the Hall of Fame with over 14,000 post cards highlighting Tony's achievements, ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the game. According to Murphy, that has been the real drive of the group, focusing on "the character of the guy, the integrity of the guy, and re-shining some light. Hopefully we can pick up those last four votes and put him over."
Four more votes, that's all Oliva needs. Twelve out of sixteen members of the veteran's committee. Former colleagues, executives and writers who know the game and its history, who should understand the effect that Oliva has had. And even though the votes belong to those men, and the honor of selection belongs to the players, the Murphy's know that the institution isn't just the property of the gatekeepers or the honorees. "It's a museum. It's a New York State museum. It's a public thing, and frankly as a baseball fan: it's my museum."
And even if you dispute Oliva's credentials (or refuse to consider him until after Gavvy Cravath gets his due), the leaders of Vote Tony O believe it's important to speak your mind. "It's our museum," repeats Murphy. "If [fans] feel strongly about anybody on that list be it Gil Hodges or Jim Kaat, I think it's their responsibility to let [the Hall of Fame] know. Nobody is really right and nobody is really wrong. But what we know as a fact is that an awful, awful lot of people think that Tony Oliva should be in the Hall of Fame, and that's what we [want] to share with those 16 guys."
So, how can we help get Tony Oliva in the Hall of Fame? Simple: do whatever we can.
The Vote Tony O website has a wealth of post cards that you can print and mail to the Hall of Fame (also linked to here for your clickable perusal). The baskets of cards are dumped out in front of the committee members and makes for a rather effective image (as noted by former committee member Tommy Lasorda).
So here's what you do
1. Click on the links to find the post card you like.
2. Print one (or preferably more) off.
3. Add a personal memory.
4. Address it to:
Baseball Hall of Fame
Attn- Golden Era Committee
25 Main Street
Cooperstown NY 13326
5. Attach a stamp to the card.
6. Drop it in the mail.
Whether you stood beside him at the Cuban sandwich station at Target Field, or held out a ball for an autograph at the Metrodome, or cheered with the Knothole Gang in the Old Met's bleachers on a Saturday afternoon, I think you'll agree that Tony Oliva is an integral part of what Minnesota baseball is.
|Thank You, Tony|
Whether you want to recognize a player who never got his due, or acknowledge the role he played in cementing baseball as an international game, or just want him to savor the game's greatest honor before (like Ron Santo and Buck O'Neill) it's too late, I think you'll agree it's important to call on the Veterans Committee to "Vote Tony O".
Do your part: click, print, sign, lick a stamp, and make yours the 14,001st plea for the Veteran's Committee to Vote Tony O.
Well...14,002nd. I already sent mine.