Minnie Minoso – Speed, Power and Grace
Months after the Chicago White Sox acquired Orestes “Minnie” Minoso in a three team trade from the Cleveland Indians in 1951, White Sox manager Paul Richards said, “Technically the deal helped everyone.
Actually we got the best of it. I wouldn’t trade Minoso for anyone in the league.”
Minoso was signed by Indians owner Bill Veeck after being alerted to his ability by Abe Saperstein, the Harlem Globetrotters impresario, who was always on the lookout for black baseball talent. Minoso had been with the Indians since 1949 but had only gotten into nine games in two years. By 1950 Veeck was out as Indians owner, forced to sell the team to fund his divorce. The new owners considered Minoso expendable. That decision possibly cost the Indians several pennants throughout the 1950’s.
In his rookie season in 1951 Minoso batted .326 and led the league in stolen bases with 31 and triples with 14. In his career Minoso batted over .300 in eight seasons and had one unusual statistic – he led the league in being hit by pitches ten times. Minoso ran the bases with abandon and fielded as gracefully as any player in baseball.
When he retired in 1964 Minnie Minoso’s career average was .298 and he had hit 186 home runs while driving in 1023 runs.
Minoso died Sunday, March 1, 2015 at a gas station in Chicago after suffering a tear in his pulmonary artery, at the age of either 90 or 92. There had always been some doubt to the Cuban star’s actual age.
Known to many as “Mr. White Sox,” Minoso was the first black ballplayer to play for the White Sox. Minoso’s English was somewhat limited when he first broke in to the big leagues but he understood prejudice. He endured racial taunts early in his career but would mockingly smile back and sometimes curse back to the ignorant hecklers in Spanish while thinking “if they only knew what I was saying is a lot worse than what they are saying.”
Minoso fell short of election to the baseball Hall of Fame in all 15 years of his eligibility. In other special Hall elections he was also denied, perhaps unfairly for playing on some good teams that just never won a pennant.
After retiring Minoso came back to play games with the White Sox in 1976 and 1980 making him one of only two players to play in the majors in five different decades, the other player being Nick Altrock.
It was more of a publicity stunt for the White Sox owner Bill Veeck than an opportunity for Minoso to show his skills, although Minoso did get a single in one of his eight at bats in 1976. He accomplished this at the age of at least 50.