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Many people as they reach an advanced age put together a Bucket List, a compilation of things one wishes to accomplish prior to signing off.
On my Bucket List is a hope to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. I gave it some serious thought in 2001 when the Minnesota Twins' Kirby Puckett and the New York Yankees' Dave Winfield (Minnesota native) were enshrined. I didn't make it.
I have another promising chance to achieve my wish this summer with the enshrinement of former Minnesota Twins Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat.
Oliva and Kaat take their places in the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 24.
It's been a long wait for both Oliva and Kaat to reach the ultimate goal of reaching the Baseball Hall of Fame. Oliva and Kaat were two of the 10 candidates on the Golden Days Hall of Fame ballot, which considered players who played between 1950 and 1969.
These two former Twins players are big reasons why I love Minnesota Twins baseball as much as I do.
Oliva represented the image of a pure hitter. He was chosen the American League Rookie of the Year in 1964 and won the American League batting championship three times.
Had he not experienced serious knee problems, Oliva would have played beyond the 15 years he did log in Major League Baseball. He also won a Gold Glove for his fielding abilities in right field.
Tony Oliva was born on Wednesday, July 20, 1938, in Pinar del Rio, Cuba. Oliva was 24 years old when he broke into the big leagues on Sept. 9, 1962, with the Minnesota Twins. He and his wife Gordetta continue to live in Bloomington.
I've had many occasions to meet Oliva. When he wasn't playing or coaching, Oliva was making his rounds at Metropolitan Stadium, the Metrodome and Target Field. He became an ambassador for the Twins and was always willing to sign an autograph when met by Twins fans, young and old.
Seeing Oliva on a bench outside the Metrodome, I nervously approached Oliva for an autograph. "I am your main man," I told Oliva. I should have said, "You're my main man." Son Troy got a kick out of that mis-statement by me.
Over last Christmas, Judy and I visited our son and family in Arizona. Troy took me into my grandson's room and showed me a framed 8 x 10 photo of me interviewing Oliva. He even has it autographed by Tony.
I saw both Oliva and Kaat play in Game 2 of the World Series in 1965 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lefty Kaat pitched a Complete Game and won over eventual Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.
I first met Kaat in the late 1960s when I worked for a daily newspaper in Albert Lea. Kaat was a guest at a roundtable, representing the Twins and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
I also remember clipping a story and photo of Kaat from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The photo showed Kaat holding a baseball that knocked out two of his teeth. His teeth marks were on the ball.
Kaat played 25 years in the Big Leagues over four decades. He played 15 years for the Senators/Twins. He also played for the Chicago White Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals. Kaat's record was 283-237. He recorded 180 Complete Games and he won 16 Gold Gloves.
The closest I have been to the Baseball Hall of Fame was when a traveling exhibit came to the Twin Cities. Walking the exhibit with Twins Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew (1984), I was told by him that he definitely thought both Oliva and Kaat deserved to be in the Hall.
Killebrew was right.

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