Sunday, March 23, 2014

Al Oliver (#166)

Al Oliver played 18 seasons in the majors (1968-85), the first half of his career as the Pirates center fielder. With this card, Al is the 1st baseman on the 1969 Topps All-Rookie team, the position he played during his rookie season, then not again regularly until 1982 with the Expos.

Oliver was signed by the Pirates in 1964, and played 4 seasons in the minors (1965-68), primarily as a 1st baseman. His major-league debut came in late September 1968, with a 4-game cup of coffee.


Al was installed as the Pirates' every-day 1st baseman in 1969, taking over for Donn Clendenon, the 5-year starter who had been selected by the Expos in the expansion draft. He played in 129 games as a rookie (97 starts at 1B), hit 17 homers and had a .285 batting average. Al finished 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting, behind Dodgers' 2nd baseman Ted Sizemore.

Oliver began the 1970 season as the starting 1st baseman, but by early May, he was alternating with Bob Robertson at 1B (64 starts, to Robertson’s 96 starts) and with Roberto Clemente in right field (52 starts). Although getting more playing time than in his rookie season, his homeruns and batting average both dropped.

In 1971, Al took over the center field spot from the departed Matty Alou, and would remain there through the 1976 season (except for 2 months in 1974, when he moved back to 1B while Robertson was out of the lineup).

1977 was Oliver's last in Pittsburgh. He moved to left field to accommodate rookie center fielder Omar Moreno. During his time with the Pirates, Al played in the post-season in '70, '71, '72, '74, and '75, and made the all-star team in '72, '75, and '76.

In December 1977, Al was involved in a 4-team, 11-player trade which sent him to the Rangers. Other big names in the deal were Bert Blyleven (Rangers to Pirates), Tom Grieve and Ken Henderson (Rangers to Mets), Jon Matlack (Mets to Rangers), and Willie Montanez (Braves to Mets). Oliver spent 4 seasons with Texas, three as an outfielder and his final one as their DH. He also won the Silver Slugger award in 1980 and 1981.

During spring training 1982, Oliver was traded to the Expos for 3rd baseman Larry Parrish. He played 2 seasons with Montreal as their 1st baseman, winning his 3rd consecutive Silver Slugger award in 1982.

Al moved on to the Giants in February 1984, but by late-August was sent to the Phillies, as Philly tried to shore up first base in their first season without Pete Rose.

Oliver was on the move again in 1985. He spent the first half of his final season with the Dodgers, and the last half with the Blue Jays. His final games were in the 1985 ALCS against the Royals.

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