Man, I thought I knew just about every ball player from the 80s and 90s, even the utility players and career Minor Leaguers. Turns out I missed out on a pretty great player named Al Oliver. From the looks of it on eBay, it appears most card companies have forgotten about his contributions to the game as well.
Al Oliver began his career in 1968 and then after the 1985 season mysteriously couldn’t find a team to sign him. This was despite the fact that he was a career .303 hitter with just 257 hits from the guaranteed ticket to Cooperstown of 3,000. Al was also a 7-time All-Star who was in contention for the MVP award three times.
It’s funny how MLB let Ichiro stick around long enough to get his 3,000th hit despite being pretty much washed up. MLB also did the same for Eddie Murray, keeping him around forever just so he could reach 500 career home runs. Murray finished his career with 504 and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2003.
Much like Jose Canseco, who could still hit home runs when he was pushed out of baseball, Al Oliver could have easily played a few more years to reach the milestone that would have cemented his place among the best of all time and added much more prestige to his name for financial reasons.
However, unlike Canseco, where there is no proof about being blackballed, Al Oliver won an arbitration case in which it was proven that MLB was guilty of collusion which cost him a job in 1986 (along with 9 other players). Oliver was awarded nearly $700,000 in damages which pretty much ended his Hall of Fame contention.
Money is great but Major League Baseball screwed Al Oliver out of his 3,000th hit. They did the same to Jose Canseco, who was less than a season away from 500 career home runs. Granted, Jose was on Steroids and was providing them to everyone but if all the big players are juicing, why only go after one guy?
As you can expect from a great player who did’t receive his plaque at Cooperstown, Al Oliver has been mostly forgotten by collectors. Thankfully, Panini America did include him in one of their baseball releases in 2017. Not surprisingly, the company who has an MLB exclusive hasn’t included Al Oliver in a set in five years.