Among other achievements on his resume, Oliva was the first player to win batting titles in each of his first two seasons. He led the AL in hits five times and doubles four times, and he batted .300 or better six times. He also made eight straight trips to the All-Star Game, from 1964-71, and he earned an AL Gold Glove in 1966.But what has likely kept Oliva trapped in the Bermuda Triangle in voters' minds was his truncated career. A right knee injury that he suffered in 1971 caused him to miss most of the '72 season and nearly forced him to retire. The introduction of the designated hitter rule in '73 allowed him to return to the field, but his production was never quite the same, and Oliva retired three seasons later. "I put up a lot of great numbers," said Oliva, who now works as a community ambassador for the Twins. "I know my career was short, but I did things no one did before. I wasn't just a great hitter -- I did a lot of other stuff. I could run, I could throw and catch. I was an all-around ballplayer." Earning the honor of enshrinement into Cooperstown would certainly be a crowning achievement for Oliva, but it's not something that would overshadow all that he was able to accomplish during his career. For Oliva, it's the appreciation of being able to play at all that is his lasting legacy. "How could a little guy like me from Cuba, get to the U.S. and play in the big leagues?" Oliva said. "It's a big miracle. I came from a small town in Cuba, from a poor family. But somehow, I came here and played with the best baseball players in the world. It's unbelievable."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less