Oliver a real Hall-buster

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:34 PM ET

DUNEDIN, FLA. - Lefty Darren Oliver made his major-league debut on Sept. 1, 1993, six weeks after Reggie Jackson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin takes the stage, along with the widow of the late Chicago Cubs third baseman Ron Santo during this July’s ceremonies.

Larkin had 2,340 career hits — none off Oliver.

You’d think finding out a soon-to-be Hall of Famer went hitless in eight at-bats might give a pitcher reason to stick out his chest a little.

Not Oliver.

“Ah, (Larkin) was at the tail end of his career,” said Oliver, 41, Friday morning in the Blue Jays clubhouse. “He wasn’t raking like he did when he was younger.”

Oliver was a starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998-99, his only time in the National League, and faced the Reds on a regular basis. Larkin hit .304 in 1998 and .293 the next season, retiring at the end of the 2004 season, after 19 seasons, so he wasn’t exactly at the end of his career.

“That might be one end of the numbers. I’ll bet Robbie Alomar and Rickey Henderson had a few hits against me,” Oliver said.

Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn (.500), Alomar (.333) and Henderson (.333) had six career hits apiece against Oliver.

A switch-hitter, Alomar sometimes battedfrom the right side against left-handers to eliminate a pitch from a repertoire.

“He didn’t need to do that against me,” Oliver laughed. “Rickey was tough. He had such a small strike zone.”

Oliver remembers facing Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins.

“With Puckett, all you had to do was throw it around the plate. He’d swing at anything,” said Oliver.

The Jays lefty also held Dave Winfield and George Brett hitless.

FAMERS OLIVER HAS FACED

AB H HR RBI BA OBP

Tony Gwynn 15 6 0 0 .400 1.000

Roberto Alomar 18 6 1 2 .333 .956

Rickey Henderson 18 6 1 1 .333 .929

Cal Ripken 22 5 2 1 .227 .724

Kirby Puckett 3 1 0 1 .333 .667

Wade Boggs 1 0 0 0 .000 .500

Paul Molitor 19 3 0 2 .158 .421

Eddie Murray 12 2 0 0 .167 .333

Barry Larkin 8 0 0 0 .000 .111

Dave Winfield 1 0 0 0 .000 .000

George Brett 2 0 0 0 .000 .000

Total 119 29 3 11 .243 .702


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