Oliver gets another Hall of Fame shot

Oliver gets another Hall of Fame shot

When the opportunity came and went in 1991 for Al Oliver to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, it looked as if his notable achievement -- that .303 career batting average over 18 seasons -- wouldn't be enough.

It was in '91 that Oliver's name first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot. But with only 19 members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America voting for Oliver, it took away any chances of him being on the ballot in future years.

However, in 2007, Oliver was presented with a second chance at enshrinement, this time via the voting process by the Veterans Committee. The Veterans Committee did not induct any players into the Hall on that ballot, but Oliver will again be considered, this time as a member for the Class of 2009.

Any player receiving at least 75 percent of the vote from the Veterans Committee, which consists of the 64 living Hall of Famers, will be enshrined at the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2009. Results from the Veterans Committee vote will be revealed on Monday at 1 p.m. ET from baseball's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

The other members of the post-1943 Veterans Committee final ballot are Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Dick Allen, Vada Pinson, Ron Santo, Luis Tiant, Joe Torre and Maury Wills.

Oliver, who retired after the 1985 season, played for seven organizations in his 18-year career. He hit .300 or better in 11 of those seasons, including nine straight beginning in 1976. In 1982, his .331 season average for the Expos earned him the National League batting title, as well as a third-place finish in NL Most Valuable Player voting.

The seven-time All-Star reached the 200-hit plateau both with the Rangers in 1980 and with the Expos in '82. Oliver finished his career with 2,743 hits, 219 home runs, 1,189 runs scored, 529 doubles and 1,326 RBIs in 2,368 games.

Oliver broke into the Majors with the Pirates in 1968 after the organization drafted him as an amateur free agent four years earlier. He made his Major League debut on Sept. 14, 1968, the same day his father passed away.

After losing his mother at the age of 11, Oliver, who made his big league debut at the age of 21, lost his father to silicosis, a condition that results from dust buildup in the lungs.

Oliver would go on to become a key member of the Pittsburgh Lumber Company teams that claimed five division titles between 1970-76, including a '71 club that went on to win the World Series.

"When it came to hitting ... all he ever did was crush the ball," teammate Willie Stargell once said about Oliver. "Al was the perfect No. 3 hitter because you knew he was going to make contact."

After playing predominately as a center fielder with the Pirates, Oliver headed to the Rangers as a part of a four-team deal prior to the '78 season. While with the Rangers, he became the club's all-time leading hitter with a .319 batting average.

Texas was the second of seven Major League teams Oliver played for before retiring. After four seasons with the Rangers, he spent time with the Expos (1982-83), Giants (1984), Phillies (1984), Dodgers (1985) and Blue Jays (1985).

It was with Montreal in '82 that Oliver, who played first base for the Expos, led the league in hits, total bases, doubles, RBIs and batting average. He also claimed his third straight Silver Slugger Award that season and became the first player to do so at three different positions. (He won it as a left fielder in 1980 and a designated hitter in 1981.)

Oliver also became the first player to collect 100 RBIs and 200 hits in both leagues.

And if voters need further convincing about Oliver's Hall of Fame credentials, maybe a simple comparison will do. Consider that Cincinnati's Joe Morgan, who was inducted into Cooperstown a year before Oliver was initially denied, finished his career with a lower batting average (.271) and fewer RBIs, doubles and hits in 282 fewer games.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.