A singing player? Groove on Nate Oliver’s 1960s musical baseball memories

The 2006 Chicago White Sox brass must have seen Nate’s 1970 Topps card. He worked that season as the team’s bunting instructor.

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.”

Check out the oh-so-cool Trading Card Database website. Oliver appeared in the Dodgers Jay Publishing “picture pack” set in 1965.

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.

Baseball Fantography Book Dazzles

We are not alone!

Did you whip out your pocket camera (or cel phone) to try to capture a single image from your last trip to the ball game? It’s been happening for years.

Baseball Fantography: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories from the Fans (Abrams Image, $19.95)  proves it. Author Andy Strasberg began www.Fantography.com, sharing informal pictures from his days as a baseball fan, then executive.

He’s shared what others have shared with him in book form. Pictures of long-gone ballparks. Snaps of superstars being human — signing autographs, relaxing at spring training — not posing from the professional photographers.

The fans have provided a sentence or three in context, captioning their fascinating flashes of baseball history. Of course, notable photo contributors can be found, such as Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

I was dazzled by the comments from baseball photographer Doug McWilliams. You’ll love the look of Strasberg photographing McWilliams photographing players for Topps in the 1970s. McWilliams traces his beginnings back to attending PCL games to make his own “photo cards.” He’d return with photographs of players, getting autographs on his creations. Sound familiar?

My only quibble about the book is its size. The book measures approximately 7-by-9. I wanted the typeface larger and the photos bigger. I’d love a coffee-table edition of this. Scrapbook sized!

Most of all, I want more photos. I’m sure I’m not alone. A second volume has to come soon. Andy Strasberg has a winning idea. Make some space on your bookshelves.

Coming Monday: a few words from Pirates legend Dick Groat.

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