PDT Sports Editor
Recently Ohio Governor John Kasich made his case for Portsmouth native Al Oliver to be made a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Not to get political in the post-election fallout, but this is a cause that deserves a bipartisan effort.
Oliver’s distinguished career is worth a good, hard look by the Hall’s Expansion Era Committee, which would determine the addition of the Portsmouth High School graduate.
A lefty in the field and at the plate, Oliver played for seven teams over his 18-year playing career. He proved to be a versatile player, able to man left, center and right field as well as first base.
He won the 1971 World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates when they defeated the Baltimore Orioles in seven games. Oliver posted a .282 batting average and drove in 64 runs that season. Also in ‘71, he was part of what is believed to be the first all-black starting lineup in Major League Baseball history.
After playing for the Pirates for 10 seasons, Oliver would go on to make his mark with the Texas Rangers for four seasons, the Montreal Expos for two seasons, and make one-season stops with the San Fransisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays.
Count the amount of All-Star teams Oliver was a part of and his team total rises from seven to 14.
Something else to consider, Oliver won Silver Slugger awards in 1980, 1981 and 1982. The lowest batting average he posted in one of his Silver Slugger seasons was in the ‘81 season when he hit .309.
If the award had existed before the 1980 season, Oliver presumably could have won the award an additional five times after posting seasonal batting averages of .312 in 1972, .321 in 1974, .323 in 1976, .324 in 1978 and .323 in 1979. The hypothetical, yet realistic total of eight would have matched him with 2005 first ballot Hall of Famer Wade Boggs.
Oliver had 12 total seasons with a batting average of .300 or above. With all those .300-plus seasons, it’s no surprise “Scoop” recorded 291 more hits than 2009 Hall of Fame Inductee Jim Rice (Oliver 2,743 career hits, Rice 2,452) and 17 more than shoe-in, first-ballot Hall of Famer Chipper Jones (2,726).
Scoop’s career even passes the test of modern baseball statistical analysis called “Sabermetrics,” which Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as, “the application of statistical analysis to baseball records, especially in order to evaluate and compare the performance of individual players.”
A sabermetric statistic called OPS, which measures a player’s ability to get on base as well as hit for power, sheds a very positive light upon Oliver’s production at the plate. A very productive season for a Major League baseball player would be an OPS of .800 or higher.
According to Baseball-Reference.com—a must-visit site for any quasi-serious baseball fan—Oliver posted a seasonal OPS of over .800 seven times, including a .906 mark he reached during the 1982 season he won the batting title.
Those numbers led to 1,326 career runs batted in, and when you consider the run producers surrounding him during his 10-season tenure in Pittsburgh (Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillén, Dave Parker) it’s remarkable he had anyone left to drive in during his turn at the plate.
Excluding his cup of coffee with the Pirates in 1968 where he played in only four games, Oliver’s average RBI production as a Pirate was about 80 per season. His career RBI average per a 162-game season was 91, proving that not only could Oliver hit for average, but he was a run producer at every stop of his career.
According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Expansion Era Committee website, the group votes upon an individual’s record, ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the game.
Oliver’s statistics are there for all to see and his record speaks for itself. Those lucky enough to have interacted with Mr. Oliver know he would already be a member of the Integrity Hall of Fame and the Character Hall of Fame if such shrines existed.
He is one candidate we can all get behind.
Bob Strickley can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 298, or email@example.com.