After years of being passed over, unfairly in my eyes, by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), subsequent veterans committees and a Negro League panel, Minnie Minoso was once again denied his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame last December as he fell three votes short of election by a group charged with evaluating players in the Golden Era (1947-1972). That's why Minnie and his fans aren't at the annual induction ceremonies in Cooperstown this weekend.
If Minoso is ever elected to baseball’s shrine based on his outstanding career--his next chance is in two years--there is no doubt, despite the fact he played with multiple teams, that his plaque will show him adorned with a White Sox cap.
The love affair between Minoso and the Sox began on May 1, 1951, just days after he was traded to Chicago from the Cleveland Indians. On that day, in his first game, Minnie homered against the New York Yankees in his initial at bat as he also became the first black player to wear a Sox uniform. The sensational rookie—whose entry to the majors was delayed because of the color barrier--quickly became a star. He was selected to the American League All-Star team and eventually was named The Sporting News A.L. Rookie of the Year with a .326 batting average and a .422 on base percentage while leading the league in triples and stolen bases.
The connection between Minoso and the fans grew and grew as his career blossomed and to this day he is generally regarded as the most popular player ever to play on the South Side.
Minoso spent part or all of 12 seasons with the White Sox (1951-57, 1960-61, 1964, 1976, 1980) with cameos in ‘76 and ‘80 when he came back as a 50- and 54-year-old to take a total of 10 at bats, highlighted by a single in that ’76 stint. Counting those two “senior” appearances, the Cuban Comet, as he was nicknamed, played 17 years in the major leagues including time with the Indians (1949, 1951, 1958-59), St. Louis Cardinals (1962) and Washington Senators (1963).
Minoso ended his superb career as one of only two players whose major league tenure spanned five decades (Former Sox pitcher Nick Altrock is the other). Minnie compiled a fine .298 batting average (hitting .300 or better eight times), 186 homers (with four 20-plus seasons) and 1,023 RBIs (driving in 100 or more runs four times). In a Sox uniform, he led the American League in triples and stolen bases three times and doubles, hits, games played and total bases once. He scored 90 or more runs 10 times, 100 or more in five different years (all with the Sox), and led the league in being hit by a pitch in 10 seasons. Minoso was named to nine All-Star Games and, as a premier leftfielder, he won three Gold Gloves. He also finished fourth in the A.L. MVP voting four times, all as a member of the Sox.
Minoso’s stats are stellar, distinguishing him as one of the era’s finest players, but it just tells part of the story. Dubbed Mr. White Sox by club Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, Minnie was an electrifying athlete whose value went far beyond the numbers. You knew by the eye test, just watching him play, that he was special.
Minoso’s persona can’t be expressed any better than it was in The Great American Baseball Card, Flipping, Trading and Bubble Gum Book, written by Brendan C. Boyd and Fred Harris:
“Minnie Minoso played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. He did not have the power of a (Mickey) Mantle or the overall talent of a (Willie) Mays, but he sprayed hits to all fields, never swung at a bad pitch, crowded the plate, bunted, stole bases, broke up double plays, made diving catches, and always, but always, hit the cut-off man. He loved to play baseball, was in every minute of every game he ever played and never let up, no matter how one-sided the score. He was what baseball is all about…”