In just over a week, the Cooperstown will welcome a handful of new members…umpire Hank O’Day, former New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and infielder Deacon White. Absent, once again, from Hall of Fame induction weekend, is former Minnesota Twins great Tony Oliva.
And that doesn’t sit well with Erin Murphy and the folks from VoteTonyO.
HOVG: How did the VoteTonyO movement come about? And, perhaps more important...WHY Tony Oliva?
MURPHY: The VoteTonyO movement, if you want to call it that, came about as a result of frustration on the part of friends of Tony Oliva as Tony has been passed over vote after vote from the Hall of Fame. Tony Oliva has been called repeatedly “the best baseball player not in the Hall of Fame” and VoteTonyO wants to change that, while Tony can still enjoy it. Tony’s stats stand for themselves, and we believe that had Tony played for another team, such as the Yankees or the Red Sox, we would not be having this conversation. Yes, Tony had a shorter career, but during that 15 years, he was the most dominant hitter in baseball during a pitcher dominated era. Don’t believe it? Check out Tony’s intentional walks versus others of the same era.
HOVG: What has been Tony's response to the campaign?
MURPHY: Tony remains a very humble person. When VoteTonyO was just fledgling in 2011, we worked hard to influence the vote of the Golden Era voters. Members of VoteTonyO were at the Oliva house at 10am when the new inductees were to be announced. When Ron Santo’s name was announced and no living player…Tony uttered, “I feel like I let down my fans.” Think of that, with no concern for himself, he thought of his fans working on his behalf. That is why VoteTonyO has worked tirelessly to educate people on not only his career, but the man, and ambassador of baseball that he is. Tony is to his fans what everyone wants there hero to be.
HOVG: Have you heard anything from voting members of the Hall of Fame Veteran's Committee? Do you anticipate any movement next time Tony Oliva's name appears on the ballot?
MURPHY: In the early days of VoteTonyO, fans wrote letters to the Golden Era Committee prior to their December 2011 vote. One of the committee members reported back to Tony that the shear amount of letters written with “VoteTonyO” on the outside was impressive to the Voting Committee. Specifically, they said that Tony has some very passionate fans! We are ever hopeful that Tony gets in with the 2014 vote and are hoping that the Hall moves past only voting in guys who have passed away. How sad for Ron Santo and his family to have been looked over for so many years and then to get in after he passes away. Did Santo become a better ballplayer? Did he become a better ambassador of the game? Did he become a better person? No. No. No.
HOVG: Tony turns 75 on July 20 and you've got something pretty special planned. What all do you have going on? And...how receptive have the Twins been in helping out?
MURPHY: The Twins have been fantastic in supporting VoteTonyO since day one. They recognize the “jewel” that they have in Tony and want to see him put into the Hall as much as we do. On July 20th, the Twins will be presenting Tony with a humongous baseball card autographed be fans as part of the pre-game celebration. Prior to the game, fans can stop by the VoteTonyO booth on the Plaza to sign up to be on “Tony's Team” and enter a drawing to win an autographed ball. The first thirty thousand fans will receive a limited edition TonyO baseball card. Be sure to stop by Tony's statue at Gate 6, TonyO Cuban Sandwich Stands and the Majestic Clubhouse Store for various birthday promotions. There will also be several tributes on the jumbotron throughout the game. It is hoped that this will remind fans how much they love Tony, raise awareness of our group and get people excited to aid in the 2014 “snail mail” campaign targeted at the Golden Era Voters.
HOVG: How can people get involved?
MURPHY: To join “Tony's Team”, please like us on Facebook and join our email list at www.votetonyo.com. We will send you quarterly updates on what Tony is up to and how you can help. The big push will happen in the fall of 2014 prior to the December vote. We will need all of “Tony's Team” to send letters to the Hall of Fame and utilize any connections they have to remind the Golden Era Voting Committee to VoteTonyO!! Tony received eight votes last time and needs 12 to get inducted. For a man who has given so much to his fans, it is time for his fans to give something back to Tony. Join our group and do your part to help Tony get into the Hall of Fame!