This year is the 60th anniversary of the Dodgers’ 1963 championship team that swept the Yankees in the World Series. I plan to review every week of the season plus some other things throughout this year, including a look back at a very notable transaction coming this weekend.
But what better way to return to our Dodgers Rewind series than to remember Nate Oliver, who was the opening day second baseman in 1963, and one of only nine Los Angeles Dodgers to make his major league debut with an opening day start. Oliver singled in each of his first two at-bats, against Cubs right-hander Larry Jackson at Wrigley Field.
Ken McMullen was another rookie opening day starter that year with the Dodgers, getting the nod at third base in his seventh career game. We did a Dodgers Rewind on McMullen back in June 2022.
Oliver did not hold the second base job long that season, with Jim Gilliam taking over at the position a few weeks into the season. Oliver spent parts of five seasons with the Dodgers, hitting .234/.296/.273 with a 69 OPS+ in 329 games.
Oliver was traded to the Giants along with Ron Hunt after the 1967 season for All-Star catcher Tom Haller. Oliver played two more major league seasons, one with the Giants before splitting 1969 with the Yankees and Cubs.
In his seven major league seasons, Oliver hit two home runs. One came with the Dodgers, on July 13, 1963 against Mets right-hander Larry Bearnarth at the Polo Grounds.
His time in Los Angeles was eventful, with the Dodgers playing in three World Series during his time with the team, winning two. Oliver played in only one of those Fall Classics, pinch-running in the ninth inning of the final game against Baltimore in 1966. In an interview years later with Ed Attanasio of The Great Game, Oliver described those Dodgers teams:
“The Dodgers were known around the league as a very arrogant team at that time. People said they were very conceited, but it wasn’t that at all. They were just really confident and people misinterpreted that as arrogance. It was instilled in them from the first day with the organization and the people who played there respected the tradition and fostered it. Every year, there was only goal and that was to get to the World Series. Everything else was second best.”
One thing I did not realize growing up in Palm Springs is that many of the Class-A Palm Springs Angels games were managed by Oliver, in 1990 and 1991. He also served as a coach in the Cubs and White Sox organizations. Oliver was born and grew up in St. Petersburg, where a park is named after his dad James, a former Negro Leagues player.
I remembered Nate Oliver in audio form at the Three-Inning Save podcast.