Pittsburgh Pirates Black History Month Tribute: The First All-Minority Lineup in MLB History
By Noah Wright
First base: Al Oliver
Despite Al Oliver primarily playing center field, where he was fondly known as ‘Scoop’ by Pirate fans, in 1971, the lefty just happened to get the occasional nod at first base this day. Entering 1971, Oliver had posted solid, but not great numbers the two seasons prior (.757 OPS, 108 OPS+). This trend continued into 1971 when Oliver finished the year batting .282/.317/.446 with 14 home runs and a 113 OPS+.
However, Oliver improved as his career went on. After taking over regular center field duties for the Pirates in 1972, Oliver would hit for a much better looking .305/.340/.464 line with a 124 OPS+ for the rest of his Pirate tenure. He also received calls to the ‘72, ‘75 and ‘76 All-Star games.
After the 1977 season, Oliver was traded to the Texas Rangers in a complicated four team swap including the Pirates, Rangers, New York Mets, and Atlanta Braves. Like in Pittsburgh, as his career progressed, his numbers only got better. During his tenure as a Ranger, Oliver blasted the ball for a .319/.358/.466 line and 131 OPS+. Oliver would have the best season of his career in 1982 after being traded to the Montreal Expos. In Canada, Oliver hit for career highs in batting average (.331), OBP (.392), slugging (.514), home runs (22), and OPS+ (150).
After ‘82, Oliver started to regress, and hit for a .757 OPS in ‘83. Oliver would finish out his career with two sub par seasons in ‘84 and ‘85. This also included being traded from the Expos to the Giants, from the Giants to the Phillies, from the Phillies to the Dodgers, and finally from the Dodgers, back up to Canada, this time with the Blue Jays in 1985.