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Twins greats Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Phil Miller, Star Tribune on

Published in Baseball

More than 45 years after his final at-bat, Tony Oliva's stellar but truncated baseball career finally received the imprimatur that he and a legion of Twins fans had long craved: Hall of Fame.

Oliva, a three-time batting champion and the heart of a league champion and two division winners in Minnesota, received 12 votes — the minimum required — Sunday from a 16-member "Golden Days Era" committee of baseball players, executives, historians and journalists. And just like that, after 23 previous electoral disappointments, the 83-year-old outfielder and franchise fixture's wait was over.

Former Twin Jim Kaat, a longtime broadcaster who at 83 still works an occasional Twins telecast, was also elected with 12 votes. He's the Twins' all-time leader in victories. The lefthanded pitcher was a three-time All-Star and 16-time Gold Glove winner who won 283 games, 190 with the Senators/Twins.

Oliva and Kaat will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 24, 2022, in Cooperstown, N.Y. along with Gil Hodges and Minnie Minoso; Hodges got 12 votes and Minoso 14 from the Golden Days Era Committee.

The Early Baseball Committee elected Bud Fowler, whose career started in Minnesota, and Buck O'Neil.

Finally in the Hall

 

"I'd love to go to and see all the great players there. They're my friends," Oliva said earlier this week. "I've been several times. I went when Rod [Carew] got in, I went when Paul Molitor got in. Kirby [Puckett], too. I'd really like to have a reason to go next year."

He's got the best one now, though he began to suspect it wouldn't happen. It's been seven years since the last time the Golden Days Era committee, which considers overlooked players from 1950-1969, took a vote — one in which he received 11 votes, one shy of election — and the next chance is scheduled for 2026.

"We're all in our 80s now," Oliva, who immigrated from his native Cuba in 1961, said of the 10 Golden Days Era nominees, seven of whom have already died. "It's a long time to wait. I wish it didn't take so long."

Still, Oliva found himself getting excited as another vote approached. He and Gordette Oliva, his wife of 53 years, planned a get-together for family and friends at their Bloomington home, just in case the news was good.

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