By guest blogger, historian and author Gary Livacari
Opening Day at Comiskey Park, April 19, 1960, was a special day in White Sox history. The 1959 American League champions welcomed back fan-favorite Minnie Minoso after a three-year exile to Cleveland. And what a “grand” return it was, as Minnie hit a fourth-inning grand slam and followed that with a ninth inning walk-off home run to give the Sox a 10-9 victory over the Kansas City Athletics!
This past December Minoso was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. The honor was long overdue and all of us here at Baseball History Comes Alive and Back Home with Baseball and Beyond are glad this great ballplayer is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
Here’s a look at Minnie Minoso’s stellar career.
Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso was one of the most popular players in White Sox history, helping the “Go-Go” White Sox become one of the premier teams of the 1950s and 1960s. The La Habana, Cuba native played 17 seasons in the majors (1946-1980) for the Indians, White Sox, Cardinals, and Senators. Over his career, he hit .299, with 2110 hits, 1136 runs, 365 doubles, 195 home runs, 1093 RBIs, 216 stolen bases, a .387 on-base percentage, and a .461 slugging average. His 130 OPS+ places him well above average among his major league contemporaries.
“Mr. White Sox” was a seven-time All-Star (appearing in nine games), and a three-time Gold Glove winner. He began his professional career in 1946 in the Negro Leagues with the New York Black Cubans and was later signed by the Cleveland Indians in the wake of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, appearing in nine games in 1949.
Minnie had a great rookie year in 1951, hitting .326, with 112 runs, 34 doubles, a league-leading 14 triples, 10 home runs, a league-leading 31 stolen bases, .422 on-base percentage, and .500 slugging average. That year, he also became one of the first Latin Americans to play in the major league All-Star Game.
The “Cuban Comet” batted over .300 eight times. He was the American League leader in triples and stolen bases three times each and in hits, doubles, and total bases one time each. He also led the American League in times hit by a pitch a record ten times.
The 1950s saw a resurgence of speed into the game as an offensive weapon. Minnie and Willie Mays are often cited as the two players most responsible for this influx. Miñoso was a defensive standout and led left fielders in assists six times and in putouts and double plays four times each.
The White Sox in the 1950s were known for speed and defense, but Minnie was a rare power threat, holding the White Sox record for career home runs from 1956 to 1974 with 186. After his major league playing career was over in 1964, he went on playing and managing in Mexico through 1973. He rejoined the White Sox as a coach and made brief but highly publicized player appearances in 1976 and 1980, becoming the third player to get a hit after the age of 50 and the second player to appear in the major leagues in five decades.
Minnie was the first black Cuban in the major leagues and the first black player in White Sox history. Over the years after his playing days ended, Minnie received many honors. His White Sox uniform #9 was retired in 1983. He became a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 1994, the Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996, the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame in 2002, and
Minnie Minoso statue outside U.S. Cellular
the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014. On September 19, 2004, Minnie Miñoso Day was celebrated at U.S. Cellular Field which included a pregame unveiling of a Minnie Miñoso statue.
And now we can add that he has also been selected for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, an honor he richly deserves.
Check out Gary’s website, “Baseball History Comes Alive!” with over 1200 fully categorized baseball essays and photo galleries, now surpassing the 700K hits mark at 768K hits: www.baseballhistorycomesalive.com
Photo Credits: All from Google search
Information: Excerpts edited from Minnie Minoso Wikipedia page; Stats from Baseball Reference.com
A final note: As you can see, Minnie Minoso had a long and stellar baseball career. But to me as a young baseball fan growing up in the fifties and sixties Minnie was most noted for his unique ability to get hit by a pitch. He would crowd the plate more than any other batter and was always willing to “take one for the team.” In fact, when playing ball in the back yard my brother would imitate Minoso by crowding the plate so much that I could never throw a strike without out hitting him. So, every pitch would either hit him or be a ball outside. I would get so frustrated I would then just lay one in, and my brother would blast it over our next-door neighbor’s garage. A BB, a HBP or a HR, it was impossible to get “Minoso” out! So, just like the pitchers in the real major leagues, I hated to face Minnie Minoso. (Fortunately for my brother we were using wiffle balls.) SF