Sunday, September 12, 2010

Forgotten Faces- Jose Oliva

Thanks to Pete Van Wieren, I got a pretty good little piece of Braves trivia. In his book "Of Mikes and Men", Van Wieren speaks of the excitement surrounding Jeff Francoeur after his 2005 call up. During that summer, Frenchy homered five times in his first twelve games- which as amazing as it was, isn't even the franchise record for quickest to five homers. That record is 11 games, and belongs to today's subject, the late Jose Oliva.

Oliva was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Texas Rangers at the tender age of 16. Jose spent his first five seasons in the Rangers minor league system as a power hitting third baseman with a good glove, but who was not much of a contact hitter. Prior to the 1993 season, Texas traded the young Oliva to Atlanta for SP Charlie Leibrandt and relief pitcher Pat Gomez. Oliva was thought to be the guy who would take over for Terry Pendleton when his contract expired. Expectations were really high after his 1994 rookie season when Oliva hit .288 in 19 games, as he had 6 home runs in 59 ABs, a .364 OBP, and a .678 SLG. Jose was also named the 1994 Topps Rookie All-Star third baseman. Jose began the 1995 season (which was Atlanta's championship season) as the starting third baseman until the middle of June, when he was hitting .151 with an OBP of .205 and was slugging .370. The Braves at that point moved a certain rookie by the name of Chipper Jones from left field to third base (and the rest, they say-is history). By the end of August, Oliva was given up on by the Braves, who traded him to St. Louis for outfield prospect Anton French. The struggles for Jose would continue in St. Louis, and he found himself in AAA Louisville in 1996-which was his last season in baseball. Sadly, Oliva died in a car accident in his homeland just three days before Christmas 1997.

Getting back to the trivia, here's some other notable Braves and how many games it took them to reach five home runs during their rookie season:

Andruw Jones- 15

Eddie Mathews-18

Bob Horner-26

Chipper Jones-28

Henry Aaron-32

Dale Murphy-83


  1. Great write up. I had no idea he died so early like that. I'll have to read up on Pete's book. I just got John Schuerholz's book and am currently reading it.

  2. I read Schuerholz' book a few months ago and enjoyed what goes on behind the scene. Have you read Mazzoni's book? That was fun to be reminded just how great the staff was!