Nate Oliver’s life and career couldn’t be squeezed onto one baseball card back.
Forget the stats. This Dodger/Giant/Yankee/Cub has savored adventures that Hall of Famers would envy.
Born in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1940, Oliver received a unique opportunity when signed by the Dodgers organization in 1959. How many newcomers got to perform before a Grapefruit League crowd of friends and family? Oliver remembered:
“Very, very exciting and unbelievable for me to be blessed to be granted such an opportunity. Yes, the gang attended several spring games.”
In Oliver’s 1969 campaign, his second career homer came as a Cub. His blast was part of a 19-0 pounding handed the Padres. The next day, the Tribute had a headline reading, “Break Up the Cubs!” Oliver recalled:
“It helped me to have one of my best performances as a major league player. Finishing that day 3 for 4 with two doubles, a homer, 4 RBI and 3 runs scored.”
Back in 1964, Oliver made news for his performance at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field. After singing the National Anthem, Oliver received appreciative applause during each at-bat. His musical talent didn’t remain a secret at home. How many Anthems did he perform?
“Several, maybe 4 at Dodger Stadium, one LA Lakers, one Anaheim and one Oakland Coliseum. I think that’s it.”
However, check out the awesome P.S. for his singing stats:
“The most memorable was having to stand in for Ella Fitzgerald. Because she could not make it so I was a last-minute replacement. And my good friend Ozzie Smith and the Cards were in town. He was in total disbelief!”
Oliver’s love and respect for baseball still blazes today. As evidence, I’d submit the fine interview captured by Ed Attanasio on the “This Great Game” website.
My only 2017 resolution for me, hobby-wise?
One day at a time.
One guy at a time.
One letter at a time.
I wrote about artist Mike “Gummy Arts” Noren in August. On Twitter last week, Mike announced that he created more than 400 artworks in 2017.
Be like Mike. Try. Try every day. Baseball loves streaks.
There’s one more name missing from that roster of departed Cub characters.
I’ll never forget Bob Will, the outfielder whose 1960 starting job was won by future Hall of Famer Billy Williams. Nonetheless, Will never stopped loving the Cubs.
I’m flattered he read this blog before his death from cancer in 2011. I enjoyed a couple of conversations with Bob. Near his final days, I was able to convince several former Cubs to call their teammate for one last stroll down memory lane. Even announcer Pat Hughes was among those who shared a telephone chat with him.
Bob never stopped loving the Cubs. He would have loved the 2016 World Series outcome, too.