Oliva, Kaat eligible again for Hall of Fame

November 5th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- Is this finally the year in which a pair of Twins icons will earn their spots alongside the greatest to play the game?

After Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat narrowly missed election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in their last opportunity in 2014, they will once again be on the 10-player ballot next month for inclusion in Cooperstown as part of the Golden Days Era Committee election for the Class of 2022.

The 16-person committee, of which the members will be announced later this fall, is scheduled to meet on Dec. 5 as part of baseball's Winter Meetings, with the results of the balloting expected to be announced later that night at 7 p.m. CT on MLB Network.

In order to gain admission to the Hall of Fame, nominees will need to secure 12 votes among the 16 committee members. Any electees will be inducted on July 24, 2022, alongside any newly elected Hall of Famers from the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot.

Both Oliva and Kaat have been waiting a long time for this opportunity since they were last eligible in '14, especially since Oliva received 11 votes and Kaat garnered 10 in that election -- both barely shy of the 12-vote threshold.

The 2016 restructuring of the Era Committees elections meant that Oliva's and Kaat's next opportunity -- originally scheduled for '17 -- was pushed back to '20, which was then further delayed another year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Oliva is now 83 years old, while Kaat is 82. If not elected in this cycle, they will next be eligible in December 2025.

The cases for Oliva and Kaat are very different, with Oliva's hopes hinging on the strength of his peak amid an injury-hindered career and Kaat's candidacy more contingent on his volume of work, based on his longevity and consistency throughout a 25-year career.

Oliva, whose uniform number 6 is among nine retired by the Twins, remains a fixture of the organization as a special assistant in the front office and as a Spanish-language radio broadcaster. His hard line-drive swing took the league by storm in 1964, when he hit .323 to become the first rookie to win a batting title and led the Majors with 217 hits.

He won another batting title in '65 as the Twins won the pennant and claimed another in '71, leading the American League in hits five times along the way. Had chronic knee issues not cut his prime short in 1972, his Hall of Fame candidacy would have been much more secure. Instead, the establishment of the designated hitter in '73 extended his career through '76, though he was a shell of his former self.

Oliva, who finished his career with a .304/.353/.476 line and 1,917 hits in 15 seasons, fell off the BBWAA ballot in 1996 after 15 years of eligibility.

Kaat, meanwhile, pitched 15 of his 25 seasons for the Senators/Twins franchise from 1959-73 and notably won 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards as part of a career in which he posted a 3.45 ERA in 898 games. The left-hander's 16 Gold Gloves are tied with Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson for second-most behind only Greg Maddux.

He never won a Cy Young Award and was named to three All-Star teams, but his 625 career starts rank sixth among left-handers in American League and National League history. He fell off the BBWAA ballot in 2003 following 15 years of eligibility.

The pair will look to join Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Bert Blyleven and Kirby Puckett as players to be enshrined in Cooperstown as members of the Twins.