Miñoso's wife adds personal touch to Hall of Fame experience

July 23rd, 2022

When Sharon Rice-Miñoso was tasked with sending items belonging to her late husband, Minnie Miñoso, to the Hall of Fame, she figured she’d mail them. She ended up having a courier personally transport the items from her home in Chicago to Cooperstown, N.Y.

Why? Because she was sending thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.

Every elected Hall of Famer gets their own display case to be filled with treasured items from their life in baseball. Miñoso, best known for his White Sox tenure, will be inducted at this year's ceremony on Sunday. The Hall already possesses several artifacts, such as a uniform Miñoso wore in 1980 at age 56, that will be featured in his case.

But they didn’t have many touches from Miñoso’s personal life. That’s where Sharon came in, assisted by professional appraiser Leila Dunbar.

Unfortunately, many of Miñoso’s baseball artifacts were lost or sold at auction as the White Sox transitioned from old Comiskey Park to their current ballpark in 1991. When considering what items to loan to Cooperstown, Sharon decided to send artifacts that illuminated Miñoso’s personal life rather than just his time on the diamond.

“He wore [these items] every day. And they have history behind why he wore [each one] every day,” Sharon said in a phone call with MLB.com. “And also, it was different than other things [the Hall of Fame has] in the case.”

Many of these items were expensive jewelry, which the Hall of Fame wanted Sharon to have appraised to estimate their value. This treasured collection included a gold bracelet emblazoned with “Miñoso,” which she estimates dates from the 1950s and was valued by Dunbar at $50,000.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Rice-Miñoso

There was an even older jeweled memento -- a 1940s diamond and gold ring valued at $75,000 that was a gift from Miñoso’s father when Miñoso was playing in the Mexican League.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Rice-Miñoso

Sharon also included a necklace that her son believes she gave to Miñoso early on in their marriage that Miñoso wore under his uniform. It has his iconic No. 9 -- which the White Sox retired in 1983 -- on a diamond pendant, which was valued at $15,000.

For Sharon, it was crucial to send items to Cooperstown that Miñoso sported proudly in his everyday life and represented his devotion to his family to complement the artifacts from his playing days.

“I think for the historic value, I feel duty bound and a privilege to display them at the Hall of Fame and share them with the public at the Negro Leagues [Museum],” Sharon said.

To round out the jewelry, Sharon had appraised a necklace that Miñoso received from his father -- a religious-themed diamond and gold pendant with a flower clip, also from the 1950s and valued at $15,000. Dunbar estimated the total value of the jewelry collection at around $175,000.

"I have been extremely fortunate to have appraised tens of thousands of items for Hall of Famers,” Dunbar said, “but these items from Miñoso are particularly special given his ‘better late than never’ induction into the Hall of Fame. Tremendously deserved.”

Photo courtesy of Sharon Rice-Miñoso

There was one particularly historic artifact that was not sent to Cooperstown -- a pistol that the former president-turned-military dictator of Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, gave to Miñoso in the 1950s, seemingly by happenstance.

“[Miñoso is] standing there [outside his ranch], and here comes President Batista in a car with the army behind him,” Sharon said. “Batista knew Minnie, so Batista pulls over and goes, ‘Minnie, what are you doing?’ Then [Minnie’s] like, ‘I'm waiting for my car, my niece has it … [Batista] explains how he's leaving, he’s going to the airport with the army. They’re obviously exiling Cuba.  

“Batista walks to the trunk of his car, and it's full of guns and weapons. He's like, ‘Minnie, why don't you take some for yourself?’ … [Minnie] was very much a pacifist, peaceful. [Batista says], “I insist, take something.’ … So Batista picked out this small pistol. It still has the clips and the bullets, and it was in a Cuban cigar box. That's how we've kept it all this time.”

Photo courtesy of Sharon Rice-Miñoso

Though the pistol -- valued at $25,000 -- won’t reside in Miñoso’s inductee case, it is in the works to potentially be displayed at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

The appraisal process was initially a bit overwhelming to Sharon. Luckily, Minnie’s fellow inductee and lifelong friend, Tony Oliva, was an enormous help. He and Miñoso played in the American League together from 1963-64 and in 1976, Oliva’s final year with the Twins. They had regular phone calls until Miñoso’s passing in 2015.

When Miñoso is honored alongside Oliva in Cooperstown on Sunday, baseball fans will understand the player he was on the field and -- thanks to his family-oriented artifacts -- the beloved man he was off the field.

“It's so bittersweet, him not being here, because as I told the Hall of Fame, ‘You would have loved my husband,’” Sharon said. “When you met him, you never forgot how kind [he was] … I will look on the positive side and say he’s reached the pinnacle of his career at this point.”