1967 TOPPS BASEBALL CARDS 39

The 1967 Topps baseball card number 39 features utility infielder Nate Oliver of the San Francisco Giants. Standing at 5’9” and weighing 165 lbs., Oliver was in his sixth season in the major leagues in 1967 after debuting with the Detroit Tigers in 1962 at the age of 22. Though he did not establish himself as a regular player on his original team, Oliver found more playing time after being traded to the Giants in 1965.

Nate Oliver was born in 1938 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and attended Southern University, a historically black college. He broke into professional baseball in 1958 when he was drafted by the Tigers organization. Oliver showed promise in the minor leagues, batting over .300 several times and earning a promotion to Detroit in 1962. He struggled to secure an everyday role on the Tigers roster, which was stocked with established veterans at middle infield. Oliver spent most of his Detroit tenure pinch hitting and occasionally filling in at second base or shortstop.

After three partial seasons with the Tigers, Oliver was traded to the Giants on November 30, 1964 in a deal that also included pitcher Bob Shaw and outfielder Bill Bryan going to San Francisco in exchange for outfielder Andre Rodgers and pitcher Billy Hoeft. With the Giants, Oliver found more consistent playing time due to injuries to starting second baseman Chuck Hiller. He played in 90 games for manager Alvin Dark’s Giants team in 1965, batting .244 with 5 home runs and 24 RBIs while splitting time between second base, shortstop, and third base.

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In 1966, Oliver solidified himself as the Giants’ everyday second baseman, starting 132 games there while batting .243 with 7 homers and 50 RBIs. Though offensively the 1966 season was similar to his first with San Francisco, defensively Oliver flashed excellent range and turning double plays, helping the Giants finish third in the National League despite a 77-85 record. Entering the 1967 season, Oliver was penciled in once again as the Giants’ second baseman by new manager Herman Franks.

The 1967 Topps baseball card depicts Oliver in a Giants road gray uniform, standing with his hands on his hips and bat on his shoulder. The photo was likely taken during spring training that year, as Oliver reported to camp looking to build on his breakout 1966 season. On the back of the card, Oliver’s statistics from 1966 are listed along with his batting and throwing handedness, date of birth, height and weight. It also notes he was originally signed by the Tigers as an amateur free agent.

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Under Herman Franks’ leadership in 1967, Oliver continued to impress with his defensive skills while also showing glimpses of improved hitting. Through the season’s first two months, he was batting over .300 for much of that stretch. However, Oliver began to slump in June and saw his average dip below .250. Ultimately, he finished the 1967 season batting .242 with 4 home runs and 35 RBIs in 134 total games, 121 of them starting at second base.

Defensively, Oliver committed only 10 errors on 538 total chances in 1967 for an impressive .981 fielding percentage. According to defensive metrics, he was worth +4 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) that season by virtue of his range and arm. Oliver’s defense continued to earn plaudits from Giants coaches and managers for helping turn double plays and making flashy plays on bunts and choppers in the infield. Though Nate Oliver never developed into a star offensive player, his versatile defense and baserunning made him a valuable role player for the Giants through 1970.

After the 1967 season, Oliver continued to start regularly at second base for the Giants through 1970. His hitting never again reached the levels of 1966 or early 1967. By 1971 at age 33, Oliver saw his playing time diminish with the emergence of rookie second baseman Tito Fuentes. He spent much of that season with the Giants’ Triple-A Phoenix farm club before receiving his release late in the year. Oliver attempted a comeback with the Seattle Pilots in 1972 but did not make their expanded roster out of spring training. That ended his 10-year major league career where he played in 857 total games, batting .243 with 26 home runs and 220 RBIs.

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In retirement, Nate Oliver returned to his native Louisiana, where he lived until passing away in 2012 at the age of 73. Though never an All-Star, Oliver made the most of his opportunities in San Francisco with outstanding defensive play at multiple infield positions from 1965-1970. The 1967 Topps card stands as one recollection of Oliver’s reliable contributions to the Giants during their pennant races of the mid-1960s. He showed that with effort and versatility, even a light-hitting role player could carve out a career spanning parts of two decades in Major League Baseball.

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