Jim Kaat on being inducted into HOF with Tony Oliva

July 21, 2014

The greatest players in the game converged in Minnesota for last week’s All-Star Game. Meanwhile, the greatest Minnesota Twins were also on hand to celebrate the city and baseball history — including longtime Twins’ ace Jim Kaat.

Kaat, of Zeeland, reminisced with former teammates, including outfielder Tony Oliva. Something that they didn’t talk about — but others always talk about — is the pair’s chance to make the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Both will be finalists in December’s Golden Era Committee vote — the revamped Veterans Committee.

“The neatest thing if it ever did happen would be Tony and I going in together,” Kaat said on his visit to the Jim Kaat Baseball Park in Zeeland this weekend. “That would really be cool. I would probably appreciate that more then if I just went in by myself.”

Both Twins legends have been close in past years.

Kaat, who won 283 games and 16 Gold Glove awards, was not elected by the writers. After 15 years on the ballot, he was moved to the Veterans Committee, where he has been much closer to election. Kaat missed by 10 votes in 2007 and 2009 in the previous version of the Veterans Committee.

In the first Golden Era Committee vote three years ago, Cubs’ legend Ron Santo was elected by garnering 15 of the 16 possible votes. Kaat was second with 10 and missed by two votes — two votes. Brooklyn’s Gil Hodges and White Sox legend Minnie Minoso each had nine votes and Oliva had eight.

Having no players elected on the old Veterans Committee for several years created this backlog with four deserving candidates at the top of the ballot again.

While Kaat is getting closer and closer to election, it is not something he dwells on.

“I think less and less about it every year. There are so many more important things in life,” he said.

Kaat has never sat by his phone on election day waiting to hear — except for the last Golden Era election three years ago.

“The Hall of Fame will say that you are eligible and tell you to sit by your phone. I don’t buy into any of it,” he said. “I did last time because I was led to believe there was a pretty good chance. And there was, it was close. If it happens, it happens. Wherever I am, they will track me down and tell me.”

Kaat, a three-time All-Star, isn’t thinking about the Hall of Fame on his own behalf but has actively made the case for Oliva, a fellow All-Star and longtime teammate who won three batting titles and led the Twins to the 1965 American League pennant. He was a career .303 hitter, led the AL in hits five times was a Gold Glove winner and eight-time All-Star. “Dave St. Peters has done a great job since he took over the Twins brining former players back,” Kaat said. “They are bringing back more and more players. I saw guys that I played with, Tony, Rod Carew, Rich Rollins, Mudcat (Grant) was there. It is good getting back and seeing those guys.”

Read more: http://www.hollandsentinel.com/article/20140720/Sports/140729953#ixzz3CfhBTbPv

By Dan.D’Addona
@hollandsentinel.com (616) 546-4276

Posted Jul. 20, 2014 @ 11:00 am

Holland, Mich.

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