Miñoso family receives call with 'tears of joy'

Hall of Fame election considered long overdue for late White Sox, Cuban icon

December 7th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Sharon Rice-Miñoso, and her youngest son, Charlie, really haven’t given any thought to what needs to be part of the Hall of Fame speech for Minnie Miñoso after his election via the 16-member Golden Days Era Committee on Sunday night.

That is, except for one important sentiment: “Thank you, my friends.”

“That was Minnie’s catch-all phrase,” Sharon said of her late husband, who received 14 of the possible 16 votes for election, during a Zoom conference call on Monday.

The Hall of Fame ceremony is scheduled for July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y., with Miñoso’s inclusion considered long overdue. The Miñoso family certainly could be excused for not thinking that far ahead as they process the present jubilation, getting the call Sunday that Sharon described as “bittersweet and exciting at the same time.”

Dignitaries -- from former governors of Illinois to members of Congress to community leaders -- have reached out with messages of congratulations to the Miñoso family. Of course, the White Sox organization that stands so strongly behind Miñoso, the person, and his Hall of Fame credentials, also was quick to contact the family.

White Sox fans and baseball fans alike have posted social-media messages about Miñoso’s greatness as a player, but also speaking to his kindness as an individual when encountered around the city.

“I think what I’m appreciating most out of this is, similar to when Dad passed, we continue to hear stories of him and stories of moments that people had with Dad that they shared with him and they are now sharing with us,” Charlie said on Monday. “It’s definitely, again, bittersweet, but it’s a comfort to hear how Dad impacted individuals.”

Miñoso’s Hall of Fame class includes Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva and Gil Hodges from the Golden Days Era Committee, and Buck O’Neil and Bud Fowler from the Early Baseball Era ballot. Oliva hails from Pinar del Rio in Cuba, while Miñoso was from La Habana, about two hours away.

Oliva, as part of a Minnesota Twins press conference Monday with Kaat, spoke of the legendary status possessed by Miñoso, who was the first Black Cuban to ever play for the White Sox in 1951 and passed away on March 1, 2015.

“In those days, he was, for us [in Cuba], the Jackie Robinson here in America,” Oliva said.

“Everybody loved Minnie Miñoso. He was so good that they had a song about him. They said when Minnie Miñoso hit the ball right, the ball danced the cha-cha-cha. He'd be in Havana, and he'd go to the country, and people would follow him. He was very good for the people in Cuba, and the ballplayers, they loved Miñoso and loved to follow in his tradition. Everybody wanted to come to the United States and have the opportunity to play professional baseball. Miñoso had a lot to do with that.”

This influence on players in Cuba extended to the United States, with Miñoso serving as a mentor and friend to numerous Cuban players who came to the White Sox. It was Miñoso who started that now famous Cuban connection on the South Side, and it was Miñoso who influenced its development long after his final plate appearance in 1980.

Sunday’s news came to Sharon and Charlie when they were at home. The family entered the day feeling cautiously optimistic for Miñoso, who was a nine-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner to go with his 2,110 hits and 216 stolen bases. The only sad part of the election is Miñoso not being alive to revel in the celebration.

“He’s still present. Just in a different form,” Charlie said with a smile. “When my dad would have heard the news, the immediate phrase he probably would have said, ‘Ay dios mio, holy Jesus!’ He would have said, ‘Thank you, my friend, for this news.’ He was a humble guy from a ranch in Cuba, and he went on to accomplish some amazing things. We're just very grateful for his legacy to live on and for his contributions to continue.”

“Minnie was very humble when it came to something like this,” Sharon said. “Honestly, I know Minnie would have cried. He was a sentimental guy and very humble and never felt he deserved special recognitions. As Charlie and I did, it was tears of joy.”