Governor pitches Oliver to the Hall of Fame

Eddie Pells, AP National Writer

November 14, 2012

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

Ohio Governor John Kasich has gone to bat for former Pittsburgh Pirates great and Portsmouth native Al Oliver, by writing a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame, urging Oliver’s election. Now, the Hall has responded with a response to Kasich.

“We thank you for taking the time to write and share your recommendation and suggestion with us,” Brad Horn, Senior Director of Communications and Education, said. “Your letter will become part of materials that are available to members of the Historical Overview Committee and the Era committees that consider candidates for Hall of Fame election.”

Horn goes on to tell Kasich, a native of Pittsburgh, that Oliver remains eligible for consideration for the Hall of Fame in perpetuity, by the Expansion Era Committee, which considers candidates whose impact was most significantly experienced during the 1973 to present time period.

“”First of all I have to give the governor credit for following up on what he said,” Oliver said Wednesday afternoon. “Because in this life, you meet people who promise you a lot of things, but they don’t come through. So I have to tip my cap to him for following up. The common thing we have going for us is the Pittsburgh connection, and I know people that he knew in McKees Rocks (PA) where he’s from. Some of my best friends are from the same place that he’s from. And I feel honored about it.”

Oliver said the first time he met Kasich was at a recent event at a Habitat for Humanity house in West Portsmouth. Kasich exited his car and instead of going to the house where everyone is waiting for him, he immediately approached Oliver.

“We were himmin’ and hawin’ for 15 minutes, and I know the people across the street were wondering, ‘when are we gonna get this program started?’” Oliver said. “He went over the lineup and asked how it was playing with Roberto (Clemente), and he asked me what kind of guy he (Clemente) was and I said, ‘yes, he was for real.’”

Oliver said the governor asked him two questions.

“He asked me why I was not in the Hall of Fame,” Oliver said. “I said, ‘governor, I really don’t know,’ because he saw the stats and he strongly believes I belong.”

Oliver, who won the batting title in 1982 with a .331 batting average, was a lifetime .303 hitter, appearing in the All-Star game in 1972, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983.

“The last question he asked me, point blank, ‘do you belong?’” Oliver said. “It was a direct question and it had to be a direct answer and I said, ‘governor, I do.’”

Horn said the Expansion Committee will next begin the process for election in 2013, as the 11 members of the Baseball Writers Historical Overview Committee will meet to determine a 12-name ballot of long-retired players, along with managers, umpires and executives.

“Should Mr. Oliver be included on this list, a 16-member voting committee would consider his candidacy at the winter meetings in 2013 for Hall of Fame induction in 2014,” Horn said.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com