CHICAGO -- Minnie Miñoso’s engaging, upbeat personality won’t be physically present at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 24 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.
But his loving spirit that always brought joy to others will be represented through his wife, Sharon Rice-Miñoso, and 85 to 90 family members as Miñoso’s long overdue Hall of Fame honor takes place. Rice-Miñoso will be giving the induction speech, with 10 minutes to discuss Minnie’s life, legacy and baseball career.
“I'm at [eight minutes and 58 seconds], but that doesn't count crying or anything else,” said Rice-Miñoso, who spoke to Chicago media prior to Friday night’s game at Guaranteed Rate Field. “Or if there is a little levity in it. I hope it's funny. The Hall of Fame gave me several samples of other people.
“Of course most of them are the gentlemen. So I've had one other woman I've seen as the widow. That's a little bit different. I think that's what's so intimidating. It's just so different versus the other gentlemen. We'll see. I'll do the best I can. I'm hoping he's OK with it."
Miñoso was elected through the Golden Days Era Committee and will be inducted along with Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva from that same Committee, as will 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.
Rice-Miñoso always thought their son, Charlie, would do the speech “because he’s so good at speaking.” But she added if the widow is able to do it, they prefer her to give the speech.
“I said, 'You never know,'” said Rice-Miñoso with a smile. “I wrote the speech, I could back out at the last minute if I all of a sudden can't. But I'm prepared.”
Prepared to speak to a crowd of 50,000 to 60,000 attendees, of course. But Rice-Miñoso is excited to capture the essence of her late husband, who was the first black Cuban to play for the White Sox. His No. 9 is one of 12 numbers retired by the White Sox, including Jackie Robinson’s No. 42. A sculpture was unveiled of Miñoso on the Guaranteed Rate Field concourse in 2004.
His contributions to the White Sox continued long after his retirement in 1983. He was a frequent visitor at the ballpark and served as a mentor to fellow Cuban players such as José Abreu. Now, Rice-Miñoso will honor her late husband with the rest of the baseball world on this special Sunday in Cooperstown.
“A lot of what we call ‘Minnie-isms,’” Rice-Miñoso said. “He had a lot of nice things to say, like ‘Thank you, my friend,’ and ‘From the bottom of my heart.’ Minnie said those all the time in his speech. So when I say those, I can hear him and his tone. Which is nice, it makes me feel closer to him.
“He was so humble. At home, he would have been excited, overwhelmed, like, ‘I don’t believe it.’ But he took everything so in stride. I think during the speech is where he would have [gotten] emotional. I picture him at times on the stage and saying, ‘He should be here. This should have been him.’”