Tony Oliva uses Hall of Fame speech to advocate for Luis Tiant’s induction
Luis Tiant is a Boston Red Sox institution.
During spring training, you can find him cheerfully chauffeuring players around the team’s Fort Myers facilities in a golf cart. Walk down Jersey Street during the season, and you’ll see fans enjoying the Cuban sandwiches from his El Tiante stand. On many summer nights, Tiant himself is at the ballpark, taking in the majesty of America’s oldest and most beloved ballpark.
Tiant is in the Red Sox Hall of Fame but remains excluded from the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite being as good, if not better than some of the men immortalized on the gleaming bronze plaques within.
Tony Oliva uses Hall of Fame speech to advocate for Red Sox legend Luis Tiant’s induction
On Sunday, one of the newest members of Cooperstown wasted no time calling out this egregious exclusion. Tony Oliva dedicated part of his own induction speech to calling out the injustice, telling everyone in attendance, “Luis Tiant belongs in the Hall of Fame.”
Oliva also raved about Tiant earlier in the weekend’s festivities, telling reporters,
"“[Tiant] should be here! Everybody knows who played baseball, all those ballplayers, they know Luis Tiant was at least in numbers 1 through 5 [one of the] best pitchers in the 60s and 70s. He was a top-five pitcher.”"
He’s not wrong.
Over his 19-year MLB career with Cleveland, Minnesota, Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, and Anaheim, Tiant was one of the game’s best pitchers in the 1960s and 70s. He won two ERA titles and finished in the top-six in Cy Young voting three times.
But the strongest argument for Tiant’s election is how he stacks up against those already enshrined. His 65.6 career pitcher WAR ranks 44th all-time, ahead of several Cooperstown arms, including Roy Halladay, Bob Feller, Dennis Eckersley, and Juan Marichal. His 229 career wins are tied for 67th all-time, ahead of Jim Bunning, Catfish Hunter, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. His 3,486 1/3 career innings are more than Eckersley, Smoltz, Hunter, and Don Drysdale, and his 2,416 strikeouts eclipsed Eck, Marichal, Sandy Koufax, and Robin Roberts, to name a few. In other words, Tiant is as deserving, if not more deserving of the honor than those who’ve already received it.
It also would have been fitting to induct Tiant alongside fellow Red Sox legend David Ortiz, as both were released by the Minnesota Twins and given a second chance in Boston.
Oliva is not the first Hall of Famer to utilize his induction speech to advocate for others. Ken Griffey Jr. mentioned Edgar Martinez in his speech; he joined Griffey in the Hall in 2019. Ted Williams famously told the world that the Negro Leagues belonged in Cooperstown when he was enshrined in 1966. He’d be happy to see Negro Leagues legends Buck O’Neil, Bud Fowler, and Minnie Miñoso inducted this year alongside Oliva.
Unfortunately, O’Neil, Fowler, and Miñoso are among the many Hall of Famers who passed away before they were elected. Hopefully, Tiant will be alive to celebrate his.