Orlando (AP) – Two former Minnesota Twins greats have been added to Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Former Twins teammates Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat were elected along with Buck O’Neil, Minnie Miñoso, Gil Hodges and Bud Fowler by a pair of veterans committees.
Oliva and Kaat, both 83 years old, are the only living new members.
Oliva was a three-time AL batting champion with the Twins whose career was cut short by knee problems.
“I was looking for that phone call a long time,” Oliva said on MLB Network. “I had so many people work so hard for me to be elected. They said I should have been elected 40 years ago. To be alive to tell the people means a lot me.”
Kaat was 283-237 in 25 seasons and a 16-time Gold Glove winner.
“I never thought I was the No. 1 pitcher,” he said. “I wasn’t dominant. I was durable and dependable. I am grateful they chose to reward dependability.”
O’Neil and Fowler were selected by the Early Days committee. Hodges, Miñoso, Oliva and Kaat were chosen by the Golden Days committee. Former Twins superstar Rod Carew is a member of that committee.
Oliva was an eight-time All-Star and batted .304 in 15 seasons, all with the Twins. The Cuban-born outfielder known for hitting wicked line drives was the 1964 AL Rookie of the Year.
Kaat was a three-time All-Star, a three-time 20-game winner and pitched in four decades. He boosted the Twins into the 1965 World Series and won a ring as a reliever on the 1982 Cardinals.
Kaat became a longtime broadcaster after he finished playing. During this year’s playoffs, he apologized after saying on an MLB Network game telecast that teams should try to “get a 40-acre field full of” players who look like White Sox infielder Yoán Moncada, who is Cuban. the remark prompted some viewers to recall the unfilled promise by the U.S. government that freed slaves would get 40 acres and a mule after the Civil War.
Passed over in previous Hall elections, the new members reflect a diversity of accomplishments. This was the first time O’Neil, Miñoso and Fowler had a chance to make the Hall under new rules honoring Negro League contributions. The Major League Baseball color barrier wasn’t broken until 1947 by Jackie Robinson.
Last December, the statistics of some 3,400 players were added to MLB’s record books when the sport said it was “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history” and reclassifying the Negro Leagues as a major league.
O’Neil was a two-time All-Star first baseman in the Negro Leagues and the first Black coach in the National or American leagues. He became the ultimate ambassador for the sport until his death in 2006 at 94, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and already is honored with a life-sized statue inside the Hall of Fame.
The six newcomers will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24, 2022, along with any new members elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
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