Orestes ‘Minnie’ Miñoso was a White Sox legend, a trailblazer, an icon for Latino ballplayers, and to this day, one of the Hall of Fame’s most glaring omissions.
But there’s hope that could soon change.
The story of Minnie Miñoso embodies the American dream.
From cutting sugar cane on a plantation in Cuba to using baseball as his golden ticket to a better life in the United States, Miñoso carried the hopes of an entire community.
“Before him, maybe they could not dream of playing in the big leagues,” noted Orestes Miñoso Arrieta Jr., Minnie’s eldest son. “But because of him, when they went to bed at night, they had a dream.”
Minoso’s legacy links generations.
Jose Abreu, one of four Cubans on the current White Sox roster, considered Miñoso a mentor and close friend.
“I’m here because of him. Not just because of all the help that he gave me, personally, but because of all the things that he did as a baseball player.
“He was a pioneer among all the Cuban players. We owe him for who we are right now and what we’ve accomplished. He’s the one that opened the path for us to get here.”
Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda called him ‘the Jackie Robinson for all Latinos.’
Two years after Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier, Miñoso became MLB’s first Black-Latino player, appearing in nine games for Cleveland in 1949.
But it wasn’t until an early season trade to the White Sox in 1951 that ‘The Cuban Comet’ received a real shot to play.
“He wasn’t in the starting lineup for Cleveland because they had too many Black players. There was this unofficial quota, period, in baseball that you can’t start more Black players than White players,” explained University of Illinois historian Dr. Adrian Burgos, who served on the Hall of Fame’s 2006 Negro League election committee. “There’s all these practices that limited his opportunities. Yet, when he got the opportunity, he shined.”
From 1951 to 1960, Miñoso made nine All-Star teams, won three gold gloves, and finished top four in MVP voting four times.
“We are talking about a guy who very well might have been the second best player in the American League in the ’50s behind Mickey Mantle,” opined national columnist for The Athletic Joe Posnanski, “He was in that mix. He was that good of a player.”
He famously played in five decades, suiting up for the Sox for ten at bats in his fifties, connecting on his final hit in 1976.
The move was perceived as a gimmick, but not to Miñoso, who was still playing in the Mexican League at the time.
“My father’s in my room crying tears of joy just like a little baby. I said, ‘Dad, everything ok?’ He said, ‘Yes! We’re going back to the United States. That was Bill Veeck. We’re going back. We’re going back.”
As Chicago’s first Black baseball player, ‘Mr. White Sox’ helped bridge the divide from the era of segregation to integration. But not everyone embraced number 9.
“Some pitchers found it difficult to play alongside or against a person of color,” Orestes Jr. remarked. “They would voice it, in no uncertain terms on the mound, they would hurt him with one of their fastballs.”
“He said he was ready to die on the ball field.”
He heard racial epithets from fans, too. But refused to retaliate.
“He was well aware of it and never complained. Never said derogatory remarks. I don’t understand the self-control he had. But he understood the times.”
“Sometimes people don’t give him enough credit because he took it with such grace, humor and refused to become indignant and refused to allow others to dominate who he was,” added Dr. Burgos.
So, for everything Miñoso meant to the game, how is he not a Hall of Famer?
“There’s no obvious or apparent reason for it. It’s almost like everybody’s like, ‘Yeah, he belongs in the Hall of Fame.’ Then they sort of forget about him. Then, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I forget about him. Let’s put him in the Hall of Fame.’ And they sort of forget about him again.
“I think it’s by far the biggest void in the Hall of Fame that Minnie Miñoso is not in there.”
But he sees momentum for Miñoso building, in part from MLB’s decision to reclassify the Negro Leagues as a Major League.
“What I think reclassification of Negro Leagues does is it puts the spotlight back on him.”
From 1946 to 1948, Miñoso played 174 games for the New York Cubans. In fact, if you take all his hits from the Major, Minor, Negro and International Leagues – it totals 4,073, seventh all-time.
“This is a body of work. I mean 4,000 hits between leagues – that’s a life. I hope people see that.”
It wasn’t until late in his life when Minnie started to express what a call to the Hall would mean.
“At the beginning, my father was of the disposition to let others praise you, not yourself. He was not known as person to praise himself. But there came a time period, when he said, ‘Son, I’ve got to talk now. I can’t go to my grave with this on my heart.’ That’s when he began to express his disappointment, his pain in not being selected for the Hall of Fame. He felt he gave all to baseball and that he sacrificed all to baseball.”
A posthumous induction would be bittersweet but long overdue.
“We would be elated. There’s a saying better late than never. But, I think the family would take it in a very comforting [way] and give them some closure.”