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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday…Al Oliver

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Al Oliver was probably one of the least recognized great hitters during his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates , Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos among other teams. I never understood why. Maybe because he didn’t hit 30 homeruns like Willie Stargell but he hit over 300 11 times in his career and had a career batting average of 303 so he hit and hit well so why so little attention on such a great career?

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 to 1976 he played on five Pirates division champions, including the team that defeated the Orioles in the 1971 World Series.

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 Montañez 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.

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday spotlights an very underrated player and hitter…Al “Scoop” Oliver

 

MLB statistics
Batting average .303
Hits 2,743
Home runs 219
Runs batted in 1,326
Teams
Career highlights and awards
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