Tony Oliva is focus of author's Twins tale

Cover of Tony Oliva book.

As Minnesota baseball fans watch the present day Twins compete at Target Field, author Thom Henninger has asked then to also take a look back to the early years of the team.

Henninger's book, "Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Legend," looks at the life of the Cuban immigrant who took Major League Baseball by storm in 1964 and helped the Twins through a decade of success in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The project started while Henninger was working on a different book, he said. As the 40th anniversary neared for the 1965 American League champion Minnesota Twins, he was working on a book chronicling that year's team. Unfortunately, former Rochester Post-Bulletin sportswriter Jim Thielman beat him to press with "Cool of The Evening: The 1965 Minnesota Twins."

"The book discussed similar themes as my book, so I put my book down," Henninger said. " A few years later, I picked it back up and started working on a book on Tony Oliva."

The book took Henninger about six years to finish. He researched Oliva's life heavily and, even though Oliva doesn't like to do interviews, spoke with the former outfielder on several occasions.


The book looks at Oliva's first few seasons as a Cuban newcomer as he dealt with political issues (The Bay of Pigs happened while he was in the minors), American culture, and a knuckle injury that wouldn't heal. The book chronicles Olivia's three batting titles and his play for the Twins' 1965 AL champions and the team's near-misses in 1967 and 1969.

"I just settled in and let Tony and his friends and teammates tell the story," Henninger said.

Henninger interviewed Oliva's family and his teammates, including the Cuban players who shared his cultural challenges and the future Hall of Famers he mentored, Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett. The book also discusses Oliva's quest for a place in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, which probably would be a given if not for knee and shoulder injuries that curtailed his career.

Henninger will read and sign copies of his book at 1 p.m. Saturday at Fair Trade Books in Red Wing and at 1 p.m. Sunday at Barnes and Noble at the Apache Mall in Rochester.


Book notes

"Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Legend" is available through online booksellers.


Henninger Thom.jpg
Thom Henninger

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