Is Minnie Minoso not one of the most melodic sounding names of all time?
Rolls off the tongue, slips through the lips and falls into a pile of soft feathers, a mile high.
That’s how Saturnino Orestes Armas “Minnie” Minoso, nicknamed “The Cuban Comet” and “Mr. White Sox” played the game of baseball.
The first Black Cuban in the major leagues and the first black player in Chicago White Sox history, he was — as a rookie in 1951 — one of the first Latin Americans to play in an MLB All-Star Game.
Alfonso “Chico” Carrasequel was the first Latin American in MLB history to start in an All-Star game (1951).
Luis Castro was baseball’s first Latino player (1902).]
The cherubic-faced Minoso was an American League (AL) All-Star for seven seasons, and a Gold Glove winner for three, when he was in his 30s.
In his 30s.
He had wheels that wouldn’t quit.
He could really move.
Ran like the wind.
He was the very epitome of the “Go-Go” White Sox, racing around the field and always looking for the extra base, accompanied by an ever-present wide and broad smile, creasing his countenance.
He batted over .300 for eight seasons and led the AL in triples and stolen bases three times each, and in hits, doubles and stolen bases, once each.
In fact, it was the great Willie Mays (179 steals) along with Minoso (167 steals) who were widely credited with leading the resurgence of speed, as an offensive weapon in the 1950s.
Minoso was particularly adept at reaching base (career .389 OBP), leading the AL in being hit by a pitch a record ten times, and holding the league mark for career times hit by a pitch from 1959–1980.
A defensive standout, he led AL left fielders in assists six times, and in putouts and double plays 4 times each.
The man could flat-out play.
And the story of modern baseball cannot be told without a mention of Minoso–who played across 5 decades (see below)–and whom Orlando Cepeda called, “The Latino Jackie Robinson.”
He played in three separate countries and for four different leagues.
He battled the scourge of racism, due to both the color of his skin and his native tongue.
And through it all, his passion for the game never wavered; it only grew.
He became an ambassador for all, who were charmed by his warmth and enthusiasm.
Hence the moniker, “Mr. White Sox,” and a statue at Guaranteed Rate Field.
But the best was yet to come.
Minoso bounced around a little toward the end of his career, before winding up back with the White Sox in 1964, as a part-time player.
Because of his close relationship with showman/owner Bill Veeck–not to mention his stature as a preeminent White Sox statesman–the club brought him back for eight at-bats at the end of the 1976 season, when he was fifty-years-old.
Four years later, the Sox brought him back again for two plate appearances in 1980, making Minoso the only five-decade major leaguer.
They tried to do it one more time in 1993, before the Commissioner intervened and blocked the move, saying that it would “trivialize the game.”
Fortuitous indeed it was then, that Veeck’s son, Mike, owned the independent St. Paul Saints who signed Minoso that year and then a decade later, making him the only seven-decade star in baseball lore.
Interestingly, this unparalleled achievement emitted a vaudevillian scent which may have somehow sullied Minoso’s viable Hall-of-Fame candidacy.
Being seen as a baseball sideshow, rather than the groundbreaking superstar he was, cost him votes.
It certainly delayed his original HOF election.
Minoso’s impact on the sport can never be overstated.
The sacrifices he made to reach the Major Leagues eclipsed even his Hall-worthy numbers.
There are reasons why Cepeda, Tony Perez, Tony Oliva and the legendary Roberto Clemente idolized Minoso.
Baseball historian and scholar Adrian Burgos Jr. hit it right on the button.
“How do we have a pioneering perennial All-Star player like Minnie Minoso not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame?” he queried.
“Well partly because we don’t understand his journey, we don’t understand how he’s a man without a country after Cuba is cut off from the U.S. diplomatic relations, and he’s still an All-Star.
When Orlando Cepeda says he was our Jackie Robinson, this is not hyperbole.
[Minoso was] a player who was pioneering and excellent.”
Remarked former President Barack Obama after Minoso’s passing in 2015 at 89:
“Minnie may have been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but for me and for generations of black and Latino young people, Minnie’s quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever could.”
Not to worry, Mr. President.
A pair of old-timers’ committees corrected some of the previous snubs, electing Buck O’Neil, Gil Hodges, Oliva, Jim Kaat, Bud Fowler and Minnie Minoso to the Hall of Fame on December 5, 2021 as part of the Class of 2022.
(Dick Allen missed out by a single vote–a travesty).
In late January, we’ll find out whether or not Bonds, Clemens and Schilling will be assigned the same route–but for different reasons–Minnie Minoso was forced to take.
[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in December 2021.]