FanPost

Pittsburgh Pirates All-Time Top 100: 26. Al Oliver

Al Oliver, also affectionately referred to as “Scoop,” was a 6’ centerfielder and occasional first baseman from Portsmouth, OH. Born on October 14th, 1946, he signed his first professional contract as a free agent with the Pirates in 1964. He made his first pro appearance the following season with the Gastonia Pirates in the “A” level Western Carolinas League, hitting .309 with 10 home runs in 123 contests. He spent 1966 with the similarly leveled Raleigh Pirates in the Carolina League, hitting .299 with 10 home runs in 117 games.

1967 would see Oliver split his year between Raleigh (40 games, .297) and the “AA” level Macon Peaches in the Southern League (38 games, .222). In 1968 he spent the bulk of the season with the Columbus Jets in the “AAA” International League, hitting .315 in 132 games, with 14 home runs and 74 RBI. He also made his first major league appearance in late September, going 1-for-8 with four strikeouts in four appearances.

1969 would mark Oliver’s first full major league season. In 129 games for the Pirates, he hit .285 with 19 doubles, 17 home runs and 70 RBI, finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year contest. With only 38 strikeouts, he ranked 10th in the NL with 12.2 AB/K. He also ranked fourth in the league with 13 HBP’s. He played mostly at first base, but filled in ably in right and left field as needed. The Pirates liked to bat him fifth in the order, although he started in every spot from two through seven. On August 15th, he fell a triple short of the cycle, making two RBI in a 5-1 win against the Cincinnati Reds. He also went 4-for-4 twice that season, including on September 25th in a 5-3 win against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pirates went 88-74 on the season, finishing in third place in the NL East.

In 1970, Scoop played 151 games for the Bucs, again mostly at first with occasional starts in right or left field batting between third and sixth in the batting order. He hit .270 with 63 runs, 33 doubles, 12 home runs, 83 RBI, and just 35 strikeouts out of 609 plate appearances (15.7 AB/K, NL fifth). He ranked fifth in the NL with seven sacrifice flies. In the first game of a doubleheader on July 4th, he hit a single and three doubles for three RBI in a 10-6 win against the Chicago Cubs. The team won the NL East by five games with an 89-73 record. In the NLCS against the Reds, he went 2-for-8 with a walk and an RBI, appearing in two of three straight losses and an early exit from the postseason.

1971 would see Oliver hit .282 in 143 contests in center field and at first base. He hit 10 sacrifice flies (NL second), 31 doubles (NL eighth), seven triples (NL 10th), and 14 home runs, totaling 64 RBI. He also ranked fourth in the NL with 309 putouts in center. Again, the Pirates had him bat everywhere from second through seventh in the order. On August 23rd, in game two of a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves, he hit two singles, a triple and two home runs for five RBI in a 15-4 win. The Pirates won the NL East by seven games over the St. Louis Cardinals. In the Pirates four game NLCS series win over the San Francisco Giants, Oliver went 3-for-12 with a home run and five total RBI. When the Pirates faced the Baltimore Orioles in the fall classic, he went 4-for-19 in five appearances with two doubles and two RBI. The Pirates won in seven.

In 1972, Oliver earned his first all-star invitation and finished seventh in the NL MVP voting. He hit .312 (NL sixth) in 140 games with 176 total hits (NL eighth), 88 runs (NL eighth), seven sacrifice flies (NL 10th), 133 singles (NL fourth), 27 doubles, 12 home runs and 89 RBI (NL 10th). He ranked fifth in the league defensively with 334 putouts in center field. As always, he batted in most spots in the order two through seven. In a 10-0 win against the Phillies on September 4th, he went 4-for-5 with two round-trippers and a total of six RBI. Pittsburgh took home their third consecutive NL East crown, finishing 11 games in front of the Cubs. The NLCS would see Oliver hit a single, two doubles, a triple and a home run for three total RBI in a 3-2 series loss to Cincinnati.

In 1973, Oliver finished 23rd in the season ending NL MVP voting. He hit .292 with 90 runs scored, nine sacrifice flies (NL third), 191 total hits (NL fifth), 38 doubles (NL second), seven triples (NL eighth), 20 home runs, and 99 RBI (NL seventh) in 158 contests. He ranked fourth in the NL with 654 total at bats and 10th with 690 plate appearances. He batted mostly third in the order while appearing mostly in centerfield. On May 3rd, he went 4-for-5 with two home runs and six RBI against the Giants in a 14-5 victory. The Pirates finished at 80-82, narrowly missing the playoffs by 2.5 games and finishing third in the NL East behind the New York Mets and the Cardinals.

1974 would see Oliver hit .321 (NL second) in 147 contests and finish seventh in the NL MVP vote. He scored 96 runs, collected 198 total hits (NL fourth) with 38 doubles (NL second), 12 triples (NL second), and 11 home runs with 85 RBI. He finished with a .475 slugging percentage (NL ninth) in 617 at bats (NL eighth). He batted mostly third in the order while splitting his time between center field and first base. He had 54 multi-hit games, including 20 instances in which he collected three or more. On September 26th, he went 5-for-5 with a double, two home runs, and five RBI in an 11-5 win over the Mets. Pittsburgh returned to the top of the NL East, at 88-74 and 1.5 games ahead of the Cardinals. In the Pirates four game series loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Oliver went 2-for-14 with an RBI.

In 1975, Oliver returned to the all-star game and hit .280 in 155 contests. He scored 90 runs (NL 10th) and hit safely 176 times, including 39 doubles (NL third) and 18 home runs with 84 RBI batting third in the order. He ranked second in the league with 374 putouts in center field. On July 6th, he went 4-for-6 with a double and three RBI in an 18-12 slugfest victory over Chicago. The Pirates won their fifth division title in six seasons, finishing 6.5 games ahead of the Phillies at 92-69.

1976 would see Scoop hit .323 in 121 games, finishing 12th in the NL MVP race and getting his third all-star invitation. He scored 62 runs and hit 22 doubles with 12 home runs and 61 RBI. He played center field and batted third. On June 28th, he hit two singles, a double, and a home run for four RBI in a 9-2 victory over the Cubs. At 92-70, the Pirates finished the season nine games behind the NL East winning Phillies.

1977 would be Oliver’s last season in Pittsburgh. He hit .308 (NL 10th) over 154 contests, scoring 75 runs and collecting 175 total hits (NL 10th), including 29 doubles and 19 home runs for 82 RBI. He also drew more walks than he struck out for the first time in his career, 40 to 38 and finished 16th in the NL MVP vote. His 14.9 AB/K rate ranked him sixth in the NL. He still appeared in center field just under half the time, with the rest of his appearances in left field batting fourth and fifth in the order. On July 5th, he hit a single, a double, and a round tripper for all three of Pittsburgh’s RBI in a 7-3 loss to the Cardinals. Despite a sparkling 96-66 record, the Pirates missed out on the division title by five games to Philadelphia.

After the season, he was involved in a four team trade. It was a monster deal that sent him with Nelson Norman to the Rangers. The Braves sent Willie Montanez to the Mets, the Rangers sent Tommy Boggs, Adrian Devine and Eddie Miller to the Braves, the Rangers sent Tom Grieve and a PTBNL to the Mets, The Pirates got Bert Blyleven from the Rangers, the Mets sent Jon Matlack to the Rangers, the Pirates also got John Milner from the Mets, and the Rangers sent Ken Henderson to the Mets as the PTBNL. Whew.

Oliver spent four very productive seasons in Texas, hitting .319 with 49 home runs and 337 RBI. He earned two more all-star invitations and his first two Silver Slugger Awards while with the team. He later played for the Montreal Expos (two seasons, another all-star game, another Silver Slugger, .315 average, 30 home runs, 193 RBI), the Giants (91 games, .298), the Phillies (28 games, .312), and the Dodgers (35 games, .253) before finishing up his major league career with the Toronto Blue Jays (61 games, .251).

All-Time Statline: 10 seasons, 1302 games, 1490-for-5026, .296/.335/.454, 689 runs, 276 doubles, 56 triples, 135 home runs, 717 RBI, 54 stolen bases, 263 walks, 443 strikeouts, 25.4 wins above replacement.

Tune in next time (I'll try for Thursday) for a guy they called "Rip."

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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