Miñoso's long, impactful journey to Cooperstown

July 24th, 2022

Minnie Miñoso always was a Hall of Fame person and a Hall of Fame gregarious character, as anyone who knew him for even the shortest amount of time would attest. But now he has the official Hall of Fame distinction to match as an iconic baseball player.

Miñoso was part of the 2022 class inducted Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y. He was elected through the Golden Days Era Committee and shared the spotlight on this day with Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva from that same Committee, as well as Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil from the Early Baseball Era Committee. David Ortiz was the lone player elected via voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Sharon Rice-Miñoso, Minnie’s widow, and Charlie, their son, were part of the 85-90 family members in attendance for the ceremony, with Sharon speaking on his behalf.

“Baseball was his life,” Rice-Miñoso said. “He was proud to wear his uniform, to come to the ballpark every day, to greet fans with a smile and sign autograph after autograph. Some people believe that Minnie signed an autograph for every man, woman and child in the Windy City.”

This honor for Miñoso follows his jersey No. 9 being retired by the White Sox in 1983 and a sculpture of his likeness unveiled at Guaranteed Rate Field. Miñoso became the first black Cuban to play for the White Sox and homered on the first pitch from the Yankees’ Vic Raschi in his first career at-bat on May 1, 1951.

Over parts of 20 seasons, ending with two at-bats in 1980, Miñoso had a slash line of .299/.387/.461 with 195 home runs, 216 stolen bases, 1,089 RBIs and 1,227 runs scored. He was a seven-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner, while topping .300 in eight seasons.

The White Sox are known for their long-running Cuban connection, continuing now with players such as José Abreu, Luis Robert, Yoán Moncada and Yasmani Grandal on the current big-league roster. But it all began with Miñoso, who was a friend and mentor to everyone in the organization until he died on March 1, 2015, at the age of 91.

“Personally, I think it’s something wonderful,” Abreu said, through interpreter Billy Russo, of Miñoso’s Hall of Fame induction. “Someone like him gets this recognition because he did a lot for us and for the country and for this organization.

“It’s just the right thing to do. It means a lot because [of] all of that, but especially for the kind of human being he was. It’s something I’m really proud of for me as a Cuban, for our whole country. It’s a big, big accomplishment.”

Miñoso’s career began with three seasons for the New York Cubans from 1946-48, where he was a two-time Negro National League All-Star. Miñoso’s 41.8 fWAR sits No. 1 among White Sox left fielders and ranks fifth overall in Sox history behind fellow Hall of Famers Luke Appling, Frank Thomas, Eddie Collins, and Nellie Fox, while his 41.4 bWAR leads all White Sox left fielders as well.

Miñoso led the AL in stolen bases three times while with the White Sox and topped all hitters in triples in three different seasons as well. His 79 triples tie for sixth in franchise history and his 171 stolen bases are tied for 12th, while he holds the career franchise mark with 145 hit by pitches.

“When he got to the clubhouse and walked through the clubhouse, you see how everybody feels,” Abreu said. “The admiration for him. Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Harold Baines, everybody was just giving the respect to him and even [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf]. Just see the relationship they had. That’s something that just a guy like him can do.”

“He used to tell us a lot of things,” former White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez said, through Russo, of Miñoso’s friendship. “But what he always said was enjoy baseball. Enjoy the game. Just enjoy it.”