If not for bad knees, Tony Oliva is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. The Rookie of the Year in 1964, Oliva was the AL batting champ. The rookie season was outstanding. Oliva also paced AL hitters in runs, hits, and total bases.
From 1964-1971 Oliva won three batting crowns, topping the .320 mark four times. He was an All Star all 8 seasons. During that period he averaged 22 homers and 90 RBI per season while slugging .507. The Gold Glove outfielder was on his way to Cooperstown.
Then he injured his knee. Oliva was never the same.
He played in just 10 games in 1972. For the remaining four years of his career he never hit .300 again. Many believe Oliva still has a strong case for the Hall.
According to baseball-reference.com, Oliva made as much as $100,000 in a season only once. Players sometimes had off-season jobs and also relied on money from endorsement deals.
In the collection is one such endorsement. Signed just nine games into his big league career, this contract calls for Oliva’s signature to appear on souvenir baseballs with stamped signatures of the team’s players.
Not exactly a money maker for Oliva, the deal calls for him to make one cent per ball sold.
2 words: Harold Baines.