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Minoso's smile graced diamond for decades

Outfielder batted .298 in 17 major league seasons, mostly with Chicago and Cleveland 

February 13, 2007 | Scott Merkin

COOPERSTOWN, NY:   Minnie Minoso’s mercurial nature as a fan favorite seemingly makes him Hall of Fame worthy even without consideration of his on-field results.

Minnie Minoso

For the seventh time, Minnie Minoso will be considered for the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

But Minoso’s playing resume certainly has the merit to stand on its own.

Minoso became the first black player to ever suit up for the White Sox, on May 1, 1951, against the Yankees at Comiskey Park. He also suited up during seven different decades, with a June 30, 1993, foray into Independent League baseball with the St. Paul Saints used to set such a record.

There’s also Minoso’s .298 average over 17 Major League seasons and his 186 home runs and 205 career stolen bases. But Minoso won’t campaign for election as part of the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot.

That’s simply not Minoso’s style.

“I don’t like publicizing myself,” said Minoso, in an interview during the 2006 season at U.S. Cellular Field. “I never thought that I deserved anything. That’s what makes myself be the kind of baseball player I was. I was supposed to try to get it. And when I get it, I forgot. I was supposed to do better. Each day I was supposed to play better.

“Some times you have an ambition to do something that might be impossible, but you never think it’s impossible. I do the best that God give me to show up for the fans.

“If the day comes and they say, ‘Minnie you are in,’ then it’s great,” Minoso said. “I never dreamed it could be possible. But I don’t want to make any kind of decision like I think I should be there or I’m the best.”

On Feb. 27, 2006, Minoso was on a special ballot of 39 players and executives from the Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues time period chosen for possible induction to the Hall of Fame. The ballot was submitted to a panel of 12, with nine votes from that particular panel (or 75 percent) needed for induction.

Although there were no limitations as to how many players or executives can be voted for, Minoso was not selected. This process served as the final election for players associated with the Negro Leagues, after a research program funded by Major League Baseball produced these additional worthy candidates. It left the always-upbeat Minoso somewhat disappointed for one of the rare moments in his public life.

Minoso is making his seventh appearance on the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot. In the 2005 Veterans election, Minoso garnered 15 percent of the vote (12 votes in total). A candidate must get 75 percent of the vote to gain election. In 15 years on the Baseball Writers’ ballot, Minoso’s highest vote total percentage was 21.08 percent in 1988. 

Results of the 2007 Veterans Committee election will be announced on February 27, and the Induction Ceremony will take place on July 29 in Cooperstown.

The native of Cuba still is as lucid as he was as a young baseball player, coming to the United States to play for the New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues 60 years ago. The only minor discrepancy is when Minoso is asked for his age. He answers 79, but records actually show that Minoso was born in November of 1922, meaning he recently turned 84.

There are literally thousands of people who consider themselves Minoso’s friends, basically anyone who has met Minoso at a White Sox game or when he’s out representing the organization as part of the White Sox speaker’s bureau rooting for his induction. But ask people such as White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Vice Chairman Eddie Einhorn about Minoso, who they have known and loved for 25 years, and a couple of thoughts come to mind.

Both men agree that the energetic Minoso is a bit tough to understand at times. They also readily admit that his popularity stands virtually unmatched.

“Minnie is probably the most popular player in the history of the [White Sox] franchise,” Reinsdorf said. “People who never saw him play love him. He has an amazing magnetic personality. He draws people to him. People sit and listen to him speaking and they are just transfixed. He is just a genuinely nice person, and really an ambassador of good will.”

“He’s an icon and everyone loves him,” Einhorn added of Minoso. “You can see it whenever he’s at the ballpark. He never won here, but he is revered.”

Reaching the .300 mark nine times in his career, Minoso was The Sporting News Rookie of the Year in 1951. Minoso led the American League in stolen bases during his first three full seasons in the Majors. Minoso also led off for the 1947 Cubans, a team that won the Negro League title, and was the starting third baseman for the East squad in both the 1947 and 1948 East-West All-Star Games.

There were stints as player and manager for Minoso in the Cuban and Mexican Leagues from 1965 to 1973, and he was a seven-time Major League All-Star. He captured three Gold Gloves in the outfield, while leading the American League in being hit by a pitch during 10 separate seasons.

His jersey No. 9 was retired by the White Sox in 1983, one of nine numbers retired by the franchise, including Jackie Robinson. If Minoso’s career didn’t start at 28, because of race, he most certainly would have approached 3,000 hits.

“He’s a Hall of Fame player as a Major Leaguer,” said Reinsdorf of Minoso.

“I want people to remember that I was happy all the time, signed autographs and drove a convertible Cadillac,” added Minoso with a smile. “Some time I would cry inside, but I don’t want them to know. I try to represent the game with dignity and respect to the end.”

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com.

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