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HOME RUN HEAVEN
Frank Deford
May 18, 1964
Last week it was the favorably fenced and ventilated ball park of the Twins, and before that the Athletics' Municipal Stadium, where the sluggers on both teams are slugging like crazy
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May 18, 1964

Home Run Heaven

Last week it was the favorably fenced and ventilated ball park of the Twins, and before that the Athletics' Municipal Stadium, where the sluggers on both teams are slugging like crazy

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Hall, who has eight homers now, one for every 8.88 at bats, was apparently created from thin air. He had an undistinguished minor league career; as recently as last year he was open to draft. Passed over, he moved up to the Twins as a hanger-on, and did not become a regular until June 13. He went on to hit 33 home runs, breaking Ted Williams' rookie record. Hall is a wispy 170 pounds; at 26 he has a bit of gray at the temples. His swing is fast, whip-lashed, with the power coming from quick wrists.

Oliva, the 23-year-old Cuban rookie, has taken center stage not only from the rest of the Twins' power cadre, but from nearly everyone but Willie Mays. With at least two hits a game at the Met all week, Oliva raised his average to .441. He has a natural, level swing that permits him to pick up on low pitches, as well as on high ones, with little difficulty. Oliva was signed in Cuba by the late Joe Cambria and borrowed his brother's passport to get to Florida. Because he wanted to protect his brother, Oliva just assumed the passport name, Tony. His real name is Pedro, but now he likes Tony better. Anyway, Pedro/ Tony Oliva got his start at Wytheville, Va. in the rookie league in 1961 and hit .410. Then the Twins sent him to the Florida Instructional League with Scout Del Wilber in charge. Wilber's orders were simple: teach him to field and speak English. "Nobody ever touched his hitting," Wilber says. "I'd see him around the cage even when he wasn't supposed to hit, and I'd tell him to go out there and field. He knew how to hit."

Oliva's English is still weak, but he works at it. He is a tremendously conscientious young man, and also a happy one. He is occasionally called "Cheeri-o" for his disposition, and because Oscar Robertson has already preempted "The Big O." Vic Power, his roommate, refers to him as "Mr. Cuban, 1964." Power also calls him "the best roommate I ever have. He is so quiet, but he is smart boy. He sees me sign autographs—'Best wishes, Vic Power'—and he ask me to show him how you write this 'best wishes.' All he want to do is eat all the time—eat anything, rice and beans, steak.

"I tell him, he not going to be happy like this all the time. He going to have a bad day some time, but he don't care. He just smile, smile and show that gold tooth. Nothing change this boy. We all talking about Mudcat Grant. He say, who is this Mudcat? I say, who is Mud-cat? You just get two hits off that guy. That who is Mudcat. He just smile. He don't know nobody. He don't know Mudcat. He don't know Bob Feller, Ty Cobb. But he a good boy. A clean-living kid, and the best roommate I ever have."

Oliva, with seven home runs, is one of three Twins among the top eight in the American League. Two others, naturally, are Athletics: Colavito and Gentile. If these two teams could only play home-and-home for the rest of the season, Babe Ruth would just be remembered for the candy bar.

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