Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Dakota Midday: 'Tony Oliva: Life And Times Of A Minnesota Twins Legend'


This weekend, the Minnesota Twins are hosting a 50th anniversary celebration for the 1965 team that went to the World Series. One of the big reasons the team won the pennant that year was Tony Oliva. He had earned Rookie of the Year honors the year before as well as the American League batting title, which he won again in ’65.

St. Paul native and lifelong Twins fan Thom Henninger was 11 years old in 1965 and attended one of the World Series games against the Dodgers at the old Metropolitan Stadium. Today Henninger is associate editor of Baseball Digest and author of the new biography, Tony Oliva: The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend.

Henninger interviewed the man fans affectionately call “Tony O” for the book. He tells the story of Oliva's difficulties adjusting to American culture and his years as a big hitting baseball star.

In the epilogue, Henninger argues that despite Oliva’s injury-shortened career, he deserves to be among the greats in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Henninger joined Dakota Midday and discussed Tony Oliva's life and career.

Karl was born to northeastern South Dakota crouton farmers, but was orphaned as a toddler during the Great Salad War (1966-67). Rescued by a flock of chickadees, he grew up in the woodlands of Sica Hollow. Legends of a bird boy living in the trees attracted the interest of renowned ornithologist and amateur bandoneon repairman Dr. Vogel Gehrke. With a handful of suet, Dr. Gehrke coaxed the timid boy down from the trees. He adopted him, named him Karl and taught him not to molt on the carpet. Dr. Gehrke’s book, The Bird Boy of Sica Hollow, was a best seller and Karl became a minor celebrity and teen idol. He appeared as a guest star on numerous television programs, most notably an awkward role on The Love Boat as the boyfriend of Captain Stubing’s daughter, Vicki. After critics panned his 1980 album, Bird Boy Does Disco, Karl retreated from public life and returned to Sica Hollow. Living in an isolated tree house, Karl achieved a reputation as a mystic. Pilgrims and seekers from around the world came to ask him about the meaning of life and for vinaigrette recipes. Growing tired of answering questions, he climbed down from his tree, shaved his massive white beard and took a job as the host of SDPB Radio’s Dakota Midday where he could ask the questions instead. After three years in that position, he ran out of questions and became host of Jazz Nightly instead. Karl makes his home in Vermillion with his charming wife Kari and three delightful children, Kodey, Kasey and Spatula. His hobbies include reciting the alphabet, combing his hair and doing volunteer work with delinquent songbirds.
Related Content