In 2006, a special H.O.F. committee was appointed for the task of reviewing the qualifications of ballplayers, managers and owners from the Negro League, in order to determine who might best qualify for admission to the Hall of Fame. After review, 17 individuals, including players, management and owners, all deceased at that time, were admitted. The two living participants — as worthy of admission as anyone on that list — Buck O’Neill and Minnie Minoso, were rejected.
Satorino Orestes Arrieta Armas Minoso, better known as Minnie Minoso, was born in Havana Cuba, either in 1922 or 1925, as there are differing accounts of his actual birth date. Minoso played several years with the New York Cubans in the mid-‘40’s, but unfortunately there are no substantial statistics for this period. Prior to his stint with the Cubans, he played several years in his home country, along with playing in the Mexican League. In 1948, he signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians, and was called up to the Big Leagues in 1949, becoming the first Latino black ball player in the Major Leagues. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1951, becoming the first White Sox player to break the color barrier. He went on to have one of the longest careers in baseball history, despite not starting his career in the Majors until he was close to 28 years old, being one of only two players to play ball in five separate decades (1940’s – 1980’s), although this was the results of one of Bill Veeck’s brainstorms: Veeck had him pinch hit in the 70’s and 80’s, when he was over 50 years old. Unfortunately, these clownish stunts (actually, these appearances allowed Minoso to get his pension, for which he was grateful to Veeck) became the embodiment of the Saturday Night Live skits: “Baseball been beery beery good to me.” The parody swallowed whole the legend.
Minoso was one of the most outstanding players during the fifties. He was a 7 time American League All-Star, and an excellent fielder – he won 3 gold gloves during his career. Four times he finished within the top five vote-getters for MVP. He was a true five-tool player, hitting for average as well as power; however, he was best known for his speed on the bases, and his ability to cause havoc, in a manner similar to Jackie Robinson. He led the American League in stolen bases for the first three years of his career. At one point, Ted Williams thought that Minoso was the one ballplayer who had the capacity to hit .400. Minoso helped usher in the era of the “Go-Go Sox” of the late ‘50’s, although unfortunately, he had been traded before the White Sox won the pennant in 1959. Throughout his career, Minoso was an on-base machine: he finished in the top ten in times on base ten years in a row. He is among the all time leaders in being hit by pitch. For his career, Minoso hit for a .298 BA, with 186 HR, 1023 RBI, 1136 Runs, 205 stolen bases, with a .389 on base and .459 slugging average, combined for a solid .848 OPS. After his playing career ended, he coached for the Sox for 3 years; later he was a White Sox community relations representative, as well as an ambassador for baseball.
As fine a ballplayer as Minoso was, he always seemed to play in the shadows of the other black Chicago star, Ernie Banks. Although his career statistics are impressive in themselves, one can wonder what they might have been if he had been allowed to play in the Major Leagues in his early twenties. Baseball Historian Bill James ranks Minoso as the 8th greatest left fielder in the history of baseball, and the 83rd greatest ballplayer of all time. James also projected that if Minoso’s career had begun at the age of 21, he would rank as one of the top 30 players in the history of the game. James also ranked how ballplayers performed in their 30’s, based on his concept of Win Shares, and Minoso ranked 16th of all time; he is also the only player in the top twenty who isn’t in the Hall of Fame.
It also should be noted that Minoso faced the same brutal racism faced by Jackie Robinson and other black players who were his contemporaries, but in some ways it was even more difficult for him, as he did not speak English, and there weren’t the bevy of interpreters that major league ballplayers from foreign cultures now have in order to make their transition easier. In his rookie season, Gil McDougal, who was white, won the rookie of the year award, despite the fact that Minoso’s numbers warranted his election.
“Believe me when I say that Minnie Miñoso is to Latin ballplayers what Jackie Robinson is to black ballplayers,” Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda wrote in his autobiography. “As much as I loved Roberto Clemente and cherish his memory, Minnie is the one who made it possible for all us Latins. Before Roberto Clemente, before Vic Power, before Orlando Cepeda, there was Minnie Miñoso. Younger players should know this and offer their thanks. He was the first Latin player to become a superstar.”