Have you ever been the fan of a superstar player, but never felt like you really connected with him. When we have players that we really like, on some level you feel some sort of connection with them. Whether it is admiration of their skills, or of the off field personality they have, you need something to hold on to and make that connection. Such is the case with Tony Oliva and myself. I always admired his career even though it was over before I could say the word baseball, I still thought he was a pretty great player. What was missing for me was some sort of wow factor though. In that vein is where my hopes were lying in todays book, that it would create some sort of better connection for me with Tony.
Tony Oliva could be considered the King of Minnesota. Playing a majority of his career with the Twins, he is respected and loved above almost all others. Being from outside Minnesota I have heard all the stories and highlights of his career. But for me there was never any feeling of connection with Oliva that I have with some other players that I had never seen. Perhaps it is Oliva’s low-key personality that didn’t get him the limelight of other Hall of Famers, or maybe it was the fact that he played in Minnesota and became a symbol of greatness for a team that is largely forgotten at times. So I was going into this book hoping for something that would improve my feelings toward Oliva.
Thom Henninger does a really nice job in this book at portraying the career of Tony Oliva, from his beginnings in Washington D.C. to the end of his career as an on field legend. The author shows the ups and downs of his storied career and some of the experiences that helped shape Oliva’s personality. The reader gets to see some personal tribulations that you would not see if you followed only his on field accomplishments. It is a very well-rounded biography that are the results of in-depth research and tireless fact checking.
The down side to this book for me is that I don’t feel I got any sort of new information on a personal level. When I read a biography I want to feel that I made a personal connection of some sort with the subject or could relate to the situation at hand. As I said above it is a well-rounded biography, but to me came off very dry on the personal level. It seems to be a very strict agenda of stick to the on-field activities and don’t reveal anything new about Tony Oliva, if it can be avoided. So for me after reading this the legend remained intact and nothing was gained for me as a fan. There is the old publishing saying – If the legend is more interesting than the facts…….print the legend.
Henninger’s writing style was enjoyable and moved along at a good pace. I am just unsure as to why we got nothing new. Perhaps it is the subject matter that keeps himself very guarded and won’t allow the world to see more, or maybe there really isn’t anymore to get. I as a fan may never know, but in the end I was a little disappointed because I was hoping to get a bigger piece of what is the Tony Oliva legend.
If you are a fan of Oliva then you should check it out. Maybe I am missing something hardcore Minnesota fans will only be able to find. Perhaps I expect too much out of a biography, but I really don’t get disappointed by a lot of them, so I am not 100% sold on the fact that I am to blame here.
You can get this book from the nice folks at the University of Minnesota Press