"Mr. White Sox" has died.
White Sox great and fan ambassador Minnie Minoso (Saturnino Orestes Armas "Minnie" Minoso Arrieta), 90, died last night in Chicago.
The beloved Minoso endeared himself to millions of Chicagoans over the years, first as a dynamic player with the popular Go-Go Sox of the 1950s and 1960s and later as a community relations ambassador of the club for decades. It was often joked that Minoso had signed enough autographs that every man, woman and child in Chicago had at least one.
"Our organization and our city have suffered a heart-breaking loss today," said Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the White Sox. "We have lost our dear friend and a great man. Many tears are falling."
Minoso, also nicknamed "The Cuban Comet," became the first black player in White Sox franchise history on May 1, 1951. He also was baseball's first black Latin star and a seven-time All-Star.
Minoso leaves behind his wife of 30 years, Sharon, sons Orestes Jr. and Charlie, and daughters Marilyn and Cecilia.
"Minnie truly was the heart, soul and smile of the White Sox," said Christine O'Reilly, vice president of community relations for the White Sox. "We saw him every day at the ballpark and he loved the fans and the White Sox dearly. Nothing made him prouder than to be at the ballpark."
"When I die, I want to be playing baseball," Minoso once said. "Truly. They don't bury me without my uniform. If I die, I die happy because I was wearing No. 9 for the White Sox."
Minoso's uniform No. 9 was retired in 1983 and a sculpture of Minoso was unveiled in 2004.
O'Reilly shared a few special memories of Minnie -- who addressed everyone he met with a "Hello, my friend!" - including how passionately he cheered on the White Sox as Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in what was an eventual White Sox victory against the Red Sox in the 2005 American League Division Series.
"Minnie stood up as El Duque entered the game, clasped his hands together and chanted a Spanish prayer," she said. "'Madre de Dios el Cubano!' I will never forget it. He was so proud of the Cuban players. He would talk to anyone about the White Sox. He meant so much to the team, and he was so nice to everyone, every single day. If you met him, you adored him."
Among all Cuban-born players in baseball history, Minoso ranks second in average (.298), third in triples (83), fourth in doubles (336), RBI (1,023), extra-base hits (605), total bases (3,023), stolen bases (205) and walks (814), fifth in hits (1,963), home runs (186) and runs scored (1,136) and eighth in games (1,835).
Minoso appeared in 1,835 career games over 17 major-league seasons with Cleveland (1949, '51, '58-59), the White Sox (1951-57, '60-61, '64, '76, '80), St. Louis (1962) and Washington (1963), hitting .298 (1,963-6,579) with 336 doubles, 83 triples, 186 home runs, 1,023 RBI, 1,136 runs scored and 205 stolen bases. Minoso won three Gold Gloves, was named the 1951 American League Rookie of the Year and finished in the Top 5 of the AL MVP voting four times.
Minoso led the AL in doubles in 1957 (36), triples in '51 (14), '54 (18) and '56 (11), stolen bases in '51 (31), '52 (22) and '53 (25) and total bases in '54 (304). He also led the league in hit-by-pitches 10 times during an 11-year span from 1951-61 and ranks ninth all-time in HBP (145). Minoso eclipsed the .300 average mark eight times during his career.
"When you talk about the top players in the American League in the 1950s," Reinsdorf said, "you talk about Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Minnie Minoso."
Minoso ranks among the White Sox franchise leaders in numerous categories, including hit-by-pitch (1st, 145), on-base percentage (4th, .397), RBI (5th, 808), extra-base hits (T5th, 474), runs scored (6th, 893), triples (T6th, 79), walks (T6th, 658), doubles (7th, 260), total bases (7th, 2,346), average (8th, .304), hits (9th, 1,523), at-bats (10th, 5,011) and games (11th, 1,373).
"I am saddened by the news of Minnie's passing, but when I think of him, laughter and joy come to mind," said Ken Williams, White Sox executive vice president. "He was just that way. I only wish he would have lived long enough to see his plaque go up in Cooperstown. He will be missed."
Current White Sox players close to Minoso - including 2014 Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu and fellow Cubans Alexei Ramirez and Adrian Nieto - expressed their sadness at the news.
Details about services are still being determined.
"The most important thing in my life is the fans," Minoso said. "To receive a smile and pay them back with a smile."