Dad passed life lessons first to Oliver
Ex-big leaguer Bob imparted humility, work ethic to Darren
ARLINGTON -- Bob Oliver's final game in the Major Leagues came on July 3, 1975.Darren Oliver, who was born Oct. 6, 1970, was just 4 years old. He only has a faint image of seeing his father in a Major League uniform. "It's kind of foggy," Oliver said. "It was just different back then. The games weren't televised as much and they didn't make that much money. Families didn't travel back then. It was a different era."
Bob Oliver was worth seeing and hard to miss. He was a 6-foot-3 power-hitting first baseman/outfielder who was originally signed by the Pirates but had his best years for the expansion Kansas City Royals in their first years of existence.He was their right-fielder in the franchise's very first game in 1969 and he hit .260 with 27 home runs and 99 RBI in 1970, his best season in the Majors. "I tell my kids 'Grandpa had power,'" Darren Oliver said. "But they ask him. They're not afraid. They love him. They listen to him more than they listen to me. When it comes to teaching them to play baseball, they listen to him. Kids don't want to listen to their dad these days. They know everything." Darren, despite ending up as a pitcher rather than a hitter, listened to Bob. When your dad is a power-hitting first baseman, you listen closely and there is much remembered on Father's Day that Darren learned from Bob they he can pass on to his own sons, Brock (9) and Maxwell (7). "The biggest thing he ever taught me that really stuck with me is treat people the way you want to be treated," Darren said. "That's a great life lesson. How do you like to be treated? You like to be treated with respect regardless of what you do for a living or who you are. "He also taught me just be humble. Don't get too high or too low. When I was in the Minor Leagues, he said, 'If you're in A-ball, just do what you have to do to get to the next level. Play hard, work hard, pay attention and listen to your coaches.'" Having a father as a Major League baseball player doesn't hurt anybody's career. But father-son tandems are still rather rare and Darren Oliver said his father never really pushed him toward baseball. "He never put pressure on me to play," Oliver said. "He just said, 'If you're going to play, then play. You're not going to, quit. Whatever you want to play, do the best you can. He never told us to play baseball, basketball or football. He was fine with whatever." Darren was drafted by the Rangers in 1988 and made his Major League debut in 1993. "Since he was a position player and I was a pitcher, it was fun having conversations about stuff," Darren said. "Like, he would always say, 'You've got to pitch inside. If you hit the guy, too bad. I'll tell you something, if he hits a line drive off your forehead; think he'll feel bad for you?' "Which is true." Now Darren , who married his wife, Melissa, in 1999, gets to pass on much of the same wisdom onto his two sons. But he doesn't express grandiose dreams of having a three-generation baseball family. Maybe it's because they love skiing, snowboarding and hanging out in the family pool as much as baseball. The Winter X Games cause as much as excitement as the World Series in the Oliver household. Or maybe he remembers his own father's attitude. "That's fine," Oliver said. "They are a work in progress. I just want them to play and be active. I'm not trying to make them into a Major League player, an NFL player or an NBA player. I just want them to have fun." Oliver is 39 and in his 17th Major League season. Five years ago, his career appeared to be finished. He was a starter for most of his career but found new life as a reliever with the Mets in 2006. He spent the next three years as a valuable setup reliever with the Angels before signing with the Rangers last offseason. One of his prime motivations to keep playing was the chance for his sons to actually watch him play, the opportunity that he really never got with his own father. "That is a lot of fun," Oliver said. "I think my youngest son is really getting into it. My oldest son, it's not that big of a deal until his friends ask for autographs or see me on TV. The good thing is I've played with different teams and they've been able to go to different cities. "In New York, we got to teach my youngest son how to hail a cab. That was so cool. We took them to Toys R Us in Times Square where they got to ride the biggest Merry Go Round you ever saw. We were in Anaheim for three years and going to Disneyland got to like going to McDonalds. We got sick of going." Too much of a good thing, maybe. Just one of those life lessons that in the Oliver family get passed down from one generation to the next.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.