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My pitch to see Al Oliver Jr. in the HOF
I am writing this piece about my neighbor and friend in hopes the Veterans Committee with the Baseball HOF recognizes his achievements and inducts him into the HOF.  He is very deserving and a very good man I'm proud to know.

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The above was taken in my apt on Monday, July 22, 2019.

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Here I am welcoming him to my apt for the interview which went very well.

Born just after the end of WWII, Albert "Scoop" Oliver, Jr. grew up during the 1950s in a rivertown on the banks of the mighty Ohio.  His great grandfather was a slave in Union Springs, Alabama and so his surname is from a slave owner.  His ancestors were brought to the US on slave ships of which there is some record.  His grandfather, Issac,  moved to Portsmouth, Ohio from the south bringing his wife, Caroline,  and son Albert Sr., looking for a better way of life and work.  The grandfather would find work  at a railroad Co. called Southern Ohio Railroad  ( which would grow to be the biggest railroad yard East of the Mississippi River under Norfolk and Western Railway.   

His father would grow into a sturdy man of athletic talent which would portend for his son becoming a professional athlete.  Albert Sr. would play basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters and was an alternate to the great Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  Albert Sr. would die at age 54 from breathing brick dust where he worked in a brickyard in Portsmouth.  Silicosis would take his life and he died the day young Al was called up to the Pirates in 1968.  He got to see his son play in one professional game in Gastonia, NC when Al was in the minor leagues with the Pirates.

Al was the oldest of 3 children born to Albert Senior and Sallie Jane Chambers, who was from Ripley, Ohio.  The young Ms. Chambers was born into a black family moving north during or after the Civil War and settled into the rivertown of Ripley, which was connected to the Underground Railroad and freedom for slaves escaping north with the help of John Rankin.  Al was the oldest, Paula the middle child, and Jim the youngest.  All are gone now, with Paula passing in March of 2019, and Al's mother dying from diabetes when he was 11 years old in the mid 1950s.  His mother always told young Al he was going to be a ball player.  She was right.  

Portsmouth was a industrial town of steel mills, brickyards, shoe factories, and a society where blacks were segregated in school and housing.

In the 1950-60s Portsmouth, Ohio was a segregated town for swimming pools, neighborhoods and schools.   Dreamland was the swimming pool for whites, while it took the drowning of a young black man in the Scioto River for the town to construct a small pool near the Railway station for blacks to swim in.   

Al attended Washington elementary a few  blocks just south of the later to be built black swimming pool known as the McKinley pool.  He eventually went on to Grant Elementary and then Portsmouth High School, playing almost strictly basketball and baseball.  He competed with and against future college and pros like Larry Hisle, who was one year younger than himself and went on to play MLB with the Phillies and Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers.  Al played on some strong PHS teams under George Heller in basketball and Harry Weinbrecht in baseball.  He had a great HS career and American Legion participation under Bill Newman, who was baseball coach and manager for the Legion team in the early 1960s and beyond in Portsmouth.  AL would  sign with scout Sid Thrift and the Pirates as a free agent in mid 60s.  He was ready to take a scholarship for baseketball to Kent State University to play guard but choose to sign with the Pirates instead.

While in the minors Al did encounter separate restrooms for blacks and fountains to drink from, and the players were separated to stay in hotels based on race.  But that all would change when Al "Scoop" Oliver was called up to play for the Pirates in 1968.  Al was 22 and had been playing in Columbus and was a first baseman.  He got the nickname "Scoop" in Gastonia, NC playing in the minors there at first base due to his ability to scoop ground balls from the dirt.  He would be moved to CF by the Pirates due to having Bob Robertson, a first baseman with power, and needing outfielders.   Winter ball in Puerto Rico under the management/guidance of Roberto Clemente would get him ready for playing in the OF for the Pirates who were loaded in talent in the IF,  and which necessitated the change to OF for Al.  Willie Stargell would help show him the right grip on a ball thrown back into the infield to avoid the ball tailing and make Al a good defender.  That was 1968-69.

By 1969 Al was on his way in MLB finishing second in league for rookie of the year.  Ted Sizemore won it that year with the Dodgers.  By 1971 he would play on a World Championship club in Pittsburgh with Roberto Clemente and the Pirates beating the Baltimore Orioles.  The Pirates made the playoffs in 70-71-72, and in 1978 traded Scoop to the Rangers for pitcher Bert Blyleven, who would go on and be inducted to the HOF in Cooperstown.   

Al would  play  18 seasons for the Pirates, Rangers, Expos, Giants, Phillies, and Dodgers and Blue Jays.  He would win 3 Silver Sluggers, play all OF positions and first base, win batting title in 1982 with Expos hitting 331, with 204 hits, 43 doubles,  and 109 RBIs, 22 HRs, finishing 3rd place in the MVP voting that year.  With the Rangers he played in all games at 163 in 1980.

Al's career would produce some eye popping numbers which some in the HOF do not share: OBP % of 344, SLG 451, OPS% of 795.  He has a career average of 303, 2743 hits, WAR of 43.7, 219 Hrs, 1189 Runs, and 1326 RBIs.  He is the only player with 2500 hits, 200 HRs, and a lifetime BA of over 300 NOT in the HOF, which is a museum for honoring selected players and preserving artifacts of players who have left indelible marks on the Nation's Pastime located in Cooperstown, New York.  It is controlled by the association of baseball writers and not controlled by MLB in determining enshrinement into the HOF.  This link will allow you to compare his stats and looks at his career:

Other items to note: Al hit the last HR in Forbes Field off Milt Pappas and drove in the first run in Three Rivers Stadium.   His son would play Division I football with Texa A&M an score the first touchdown recorded in the Big 12 league as a receiver.  Al was an accomplished racquetball player playing in national tournaments in Las Vegas in the 1970s winning first place and second taking home $250,000 dollars in winnings.  He batted over 300 11 times and in 9 consecutive seasons.  He is Texas all time batting average leader at 319.  He played in 7 all star games.

His best teammate was Roberto Clemente and the best player he witnessed.  He played for legendary managers such as Bobby Cox and Danny Murtaugh, and said the most influential person in his life was his father who gave him discipline and raised him after the untimely death of his mother when he was only  11.  Jim Fanning was his best manager to play for with Montreal .  His toughest opponent was Steve Carlton, and his greatest game was in Detroit in a double header in 1980 where he tied American league record for total bases in a  double header.   Best Park he played in was Wrigley and he enjoyed Riverfront.   His favorite team growing up was Cincinnati.

After Retirement Al would go on to work with truant youth to get them back into school with Portsmouth City Schools, and become chairman of Scioto County Children's Services.  He served in the church as a Deacon at the Beulah Baptist Church in Portsmouth and also gave the invocation at the ceremonies at the Baseball HOF in 2001.  He has served his community above and beyond and been a solid citizen.
Albert Oliver Jr was inducted into the Negro League Baseball Museum's Hall of Game in 2017.  He also was on a Pirate team which fielded the first All Black Lineup in MLB history.

My wish is to help show the human side of this great man and athlete and assist in any way to see him get his rightful acclaim into the HOF for his long and productive pro baseball career.

What a journey!
I'm in.....

I saw Al play for the Columbus Jets in 1968 before his September 1st call up. I was 10 and my Mom Coached Girls Softball and my Dad played in a Fast Pitch Softball league, so we were a Ball family and enjoyed several trips a summer to the west side to watch the Jets.
I remember hearing about that Portsmouth HS team him and Larry Hisle played on as it was a big deal even up in Columbus to have 2 Major Leaguers especially as good as they both were to play MLB.
The legendary Johnny Pesky was the Jets Manager the summer of 68 and that team had some other really good players.
From down the river in Gallipolis , Dave Roberts , Dock Ellis, Gene Garber, Richie Hebner, Freddie Patek, the great Manny Sanguillen also. That 6 more solid Major Leaguers .
Seen Milt May, play there also, but was missed Willie Stargell , Wilbur Woods also pitched for the Jets at one time.

Side note it is believed that September 1st 1971 the Pittsburgh Pirates became the 1st Major League team ever to field a all Black starting lineup .
Great write-up, Zig.  His numbers alone warrant induction.  Sounds like he led a helluva life on top of it.   Cool
Sporting news on Al and owner collusion

Nice write up Zig. I remember Oliver with the Jets and of course the Pirates.
Solid player.
Best of Luck to you and Al.
Loved to watch those Pirate teams with guys like Manny Sanguillon, Renny Stennett, Richie Zisk, Willie Stargell, Oliver and others.  They called them the Lumber Company because so many had .300 averages and many hit with power.  However, while Al was a very solid player no way he should be in the Hall of Fame.  Dude was a tough out however.
Drive like hell!!  You'll get there!
(08-21-2019, 08:31 PM)Hightop77 Wrote: Loved to watch those Pirate teams with guys like Manny Sanguillon, Renny Stennett, Richie Zisk, Willie Stargell, Oliver and others.  They called them the Lumber Company because so many had .300 averages and many hit with power.  However, while Al was a very solid player no way he should be in the Hall of Fame.  Dude was a tough out however.
His stats are better than a good many already in the HOF.  He played 18 years.  Yes, he should be in.  If you can back it up as to why I'm listening.  He hit over 300 for his career.

There are better players not in the Hall.  Like I said, he was solid and was a tough out but not necessarily HOF material.  I think its great you are standing up for him.
Drive like hell!!  You'll get there!
(08-21-2019, 08:51 PM)Hightop77 Wrote: There are better players not in the Hall.  Like I said, he was solid and was a tough out but not necessarily HOF material.  I think its great you are standing up for him.
Again, give me the guys who are not there who are better with the stats.  Saying there are players who should be in doesn't mean he shouldn't.  There are a good many who ALSO should be in.   I can list you many already there that didn't have his stats.
A player plays 18 freaking years and hits over 300 ave and has the RBIs and almost 3,000 hits he produced?  He is worthy and should be in.

Hell man, anybody who knows baseball knows players like Dale Murphy and McGriff are better over all players.
Drive like hell!!  You'll get there!

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