Wednesday, September 7, 2011

#243 - Bob Oliver

Here's Bob Oliver in Yankee Stadium looking as if something is in the air. Bob is yet another guy who would be wearing pinstripes in the not-so-distant future. He is not related to Al or Nate or any other of his contemporaries with the same surname. He is, though, the father of Darren which I did not realize until researching this post. Darren is still hanging in there with the Rangers, enjoying a post-35 resurgence - he's 40 - that his dad never did. Over the course of his career Bob had some great cards including two action ones ('71 and '73) and a bizarre almost full split one ('72). This one isn't anything special but it's better than '75's in which he gets an airbush on his final card. Maybe that's what he senses here.

Bob Oliver was born in Louisiana and at some point relocated to and grew up in Sacramento, California. He then attended American River College, a community school in Sacramento, from which he was signed by the Pirates upon his graduation in '63. After a couple non-descript seasons of A ball in '63 and '64 at first base, Bob moved to Double A in '65, showed some power with 15 homers, and versatility as he put in time at second, third, and the outfield. He also got into his first game up top that year. He split '66 between Double and Triple A where he had a super season at the former level, spent all of '67 at Double A, and continued his itinerant work in the field. After the '67 season he was sent to the Twins for Ron Kline. For Minnesota he played at the Triple A level, where he had his best minor league season - .297 with 20 homers and 93 RBIs - before he was plucked in the expansion draft by the Royals that winter.

For the Royals Oliver stayed up top arguably becoming the team's first legitimate power threat. His rookie season of '69 Bob played in the outfield and hit ok, although he also displayed what would be career chinks in his baseball armor: not enough walks - his career OBA was under .300 - and too many strikeouts. In '70 he moved primarily to first - his best position - and also had his best season with 27 homers, 83 runs, and 99 RBIs. In '71 the Royals got Gail Hopkins from Chicago to take some time at first and Bob put in time back in the outfield, mostly as a reserve, as his stats came in substantially. Early in '72 on the wake of KC's pick-up of John Mayberry, Bob was traded to the Angels for Tom Murphy. For California Bob had a resurgence offensively the rest of the year as he won over the starting first baseman gig from Jim Spencer. Then in '73 Bob started wandering again, putting in pretty much equal time at first, third, and in the outfield. He had offensive numbers that rivaled '70's and in the winter of '74 was projected as the guy who would finally solve the Angels' third base woes. However after a bunch of games there the club brought back Paul Schaal - ironically from KC - and Bob's time at third was over. His playing time declined a bit and late in the season he was sent to the Orioles for Mickey Scott to help during the stretch drive. That December he was sold to the Yankees for whom he played sparsely, mostly as a defensive replacement at first, before being released in July. That ended Bob's time up top. In '76 he signed with the Phillies for whom he had a pretty nice half season at Triple A playing mostly first, the same position he occupied at that level for the Pirates in '77. In '78 he got with the White Sox who released him after a few games, again at Triple A, and Bob then moved way south, finishing up that year and all of the following in Mexico. '79 was his final year as a player and he finished with a .256 average, 94 homers, and 419 RBIs. After playing Bob returned to Sacramento where he played a bunch of Senior baseball, worked for McKesson Health, managed the local independent team for a season ('99), and stared his own baseball academy, a non-profit whose mission is to teach baseball skills to kids with diabetes. He also has worked for Dusty Baker's baseball school as well.

Those are pretty good star bullets. Regarding the first bullet, though, that game was in '69, not '70. Bob also had three RBIs in a game the Royals won 13-11 over California. He pulled off that second star bullet in less than a full season. I like the cartoon, especially if Bob was a painter of that type of work, not just an admirer. The term "mosaic painting" reminds me of Raymond Carver.

This gets two AL guys together, thanks to a guy already mentioned:

1. Oliver and Jim Spencer '72 to '73 Angels;
2. Spencer and Bill Gogolewski '73 Rangers.

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