This article was originally published in February 2022 as part of a project to celebrate the legacy and valuable contribution of Afro-Latino athletes for Black History Month. Today, we repost it following the same purpose.
“When I die, I want it to be playing baseball. Truly. They won’t bury me without my uniform. If I die, I die happy because I was wearing number 9 for the White Sox ”–– Minnie Miñoso
When you talk about great Cuban baseball players, Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso, better known as “Minnie”, must be part of this conversation.
Miñoso’s birth date is disputed, as some documents have him born on November 29, 1925, others two years earlier. A Native of Perico, Cuba, near Havana, he became one of the premier left fielders in Major League Baseball, being famous for his speed and defensive abilities.
And even when he said goodbye as an active player, he remained one of the most loved and respected figures in his years as a coach with the Chicago White Sox.
His status as a legend was marked for eternity when in December of 2021 he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, by the Golden Era Committee.
“This tremendous honor would have meant a great deal to my dad, and it means a great deal to us,” Miñoso’s son Charlie Rice-Miñoso said in a statement. “My dad lived the American dream. He was able to open doors and break barriers all while doing what he loved, fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a major-league baseball player.
“He devoted his life to baseball, to all the fans, to the community and to Chicago, which he loved. He was so proud to be Black, to be a Cuban, to be an American and to be a professional baseball player for the Chicago White Sox. He also would have been so very proud to be a Hall of Famer.”
“Minnie” began his career in 1946 with Alex Pompez’ New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues, where he had a short but spectacular tenure, with a .403 batting average and a whooping on base percentage of .442. In 1948 his contract was sold to the Cleveland Indians along with José Santiago in order to keep the Cubans franchise alive as it was facing difficult times.
From the Negro League to the Big Leagues
Miñoso spent four years with the Indians, splitting time with the Dayton Class A team and San Diego in the Pacific Coast League before coming to the White Sox in a three-player trade. It was in Chicago where he truly began to shine. He took over third base and had a .324 batting average, second only to batting champ Ferris Fain, while stealing 31 bases. He scored 122 runs, one short of league leader Dom DiMaggio and finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, even though he had better numbers than Yankees’ Gil McDougald.
He also finished high in the Most Valuable Player voting.
Minnie Miñoso was the first black player in the White Sox organization and stole the hearts of the fans immediately when in his first at bat he hit a 451-foot homer off the New York Yankees, quickly becoming known as Mr. White Sox. His defensive abilities were exceptional leading the league in double plays by an outfielder during three seasons.
Wearing number 9, Miñoso averaged hit 304, with 135 homers and 808 RBIs at Chicago. He was the AL leader in triples and stolen bases three times each and in hits, doubles, and total bases. “Minnie” played in nine All-Star Games and his spectacular arm and defense earned him three Gold Gloves.
Among Cuban players in MLB, the “Cometa Cubano” ranks second in batting average with .298, third in triples with 883, fourth in doubles with 336, ranking in the all time Top 10 in most offensive categories .
“He is a Cuban God. Minnie represents everything in Cuban baseball, it is like a book. He is a legend that has to be kept on a pedestal,” said Alexei Ramirez, former Cuban White Sox shortstop.
Miñoso spent two years with the Indians when he was traded after the 1957 season in a four-player deal that included Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn. With Cleveland, as a full-time player, he won another Gold Glove, led the league in putouts in 1959 and had a .302 batting average with a career high 24 home runs.
The “Cuban Comet” would return to the White Sox in 1960, making his last All-Star appearance that year while leading the AL with 184 hits, a .311 batting clip and finishing fourth in the MVP voting. He continued with the Sox through 1961 and played for the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Senators during the 1962 and 1963 seasons respectively before winding down his formal Major League career back with the White Sox in 1964. He played until the 1970’s in the Mexican Professional Baseball League and was activated two times by the White Sox as public relations exhibitions, with his last at bat in 1980 at age 54.
He was on the National Hall of Fame ballot a total of 15 times, never receiving more than 21% of the total vote despite having numbers comparable to most inductees enshrined at Cooperstown. His number was retired by the White Sox in 1983 and a statue was placed at Cellular Field when Chicago moved out of Comiskey Park in 2004.
Despite not being inducted into the National Hall of Fame, he has positioned his own place in the hearts of every White Sox and baseball fan who had the privilege to see him play.
He passed away on March 1, 2015 of a torn pulmonary artery. President Barack Obama eulogized him in a statement released by the White House, “For South Siders and Sox fans all across the country, including me, Minnie Miñoso is and will always be ‘Mr. White Sox.”
finally have their combined playing stats included in their career records in accordance with a decision reached by Major League Baseball December of 2020.