Baseball in Wartime

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Tom Oliver


Date and Place of Birth: January 15, 1903 Montgomery, Alabama

Died: Montgomery, Alabama February 26, 1988

Baseball Experience: Major League
Torpedoman Second-Class
Military Unit:
US Navy

Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations


Thomas N “Tom” Oliver was born on January 15, 1903 in Montgomery, Alabama. He was given a trial by New Orleans in 1922 but didn’t make the club and signed his first professional contract in 1923 with the Laurel Lumberjacks of the Cotton States League in 1923. Steadily progressing through the minor leagues, Oliver had an excellent year with the Beaumont Exporters of the Texas League in 1926, batting .352 with seven home runs and 70 RBIs.


Oliver joined the Little Rock Travelers of the Southern Association in 1928 and two strong seasons with the Class A club (.321, 5 HR, 64 RBIs in 1928 and .338, 5 HR, 68 RBIs in 1929) earned the 27-year-old outfielder a shot at the big leagues. It was the Philadelphia Athletics who originally called upon his services, but trying to break into the outfield of a championship club was impossibility. When the 1930 season started, it was the Boston Red Sox (coming off an eighth-place finish) that acquired his services.


Oliver played all 154 games with Boston that rookie season and hit .293, leading the American League with 646 at-bats. In 1931 he batted .276, drove in 70 runs and accompanied the Red Sox on their 1931 tour of Japan.


He batted .264 in 122 games in 1932, and then hit .258 in 90 games in 1933 to end his playing days at the major league level. He spent the rest of his playing career at Baltimore, Toronto, Montreal and Knoxville, and became a player-manager with Reading of the Interstate League in 1940. He managed Wilmington in the same league in 1941 and skippered Lancaster in 1942.


Approaching his fortieth birthday, Oliver entered military service with the Navy after the 1942 season. He served as a tordepoman second-class on the destroyer Grayson (DD-435) which was involved in the Solomon Islands and Admiralty Islands operations, as well as duty off Saipan and Formosa.


USS Grayson (DD-435)
USS Grayson (DD-435). Tom Oliver was a torpedoman second-class aboard the Grayson during the Solomon Islands
and Admiralty Islands operations, as well as duty off Saipan and Formosa


Oliver returned to managing in the minors after the war and was back in the major leagues as a coach in 1950, spending five seasons in Philadelphia and Baltimore. He later worked as a scout for Baltimore, Washington and Minnesota. He was then the Southeast region scout for the Phillies for 18 years and retired in 1983. Oliver had spent 60 years in baseball.


He passed away in Montgomery, Alabama on February 26, 1988. He was 85 years old.


Created January 30, 2008.


Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.