During Black History Month and beyond, it’s important to honor players that broke the color barrier in baseball and those that continue to carry the torch for the players that gave their everything but were met with racism and disrespect. This series will cover some of the players that made an impact on baseball and made the game more inclusive.
Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso’s love for baseball began as a preteen when he organized a youth baseball team. Miñoso managed the team by finding players and equipment.
His love for the sport expanded at 14 after watching Martin Dihigo play. Miñoso tried to mimic Dihigo by playing every position at least once as a teenager. By 18, Miñoso threw a no-hitter against a junior all-star team from Central Espana.
In 1943, Rene Midesten hired Miñoso to play for $2 per game. By the end of 1945, Miñoso worked his way up to a $150-a-month contract with a winter league in the Caribbean. In 1946, Miñoso signed a $300-a-month deal to play for the New York Cubans of the Negro National League. By 1947, Miñoso became the NNL’s most effective leadoff hitter, batting .294 and helping the Cubans win the pennant. He was also the East’s starting third baseman in the All-Star Game. In the World Series, the Cubans beat the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro American League.
Major League Days
Miñoso tried out for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1948, but was not offered a contract. However, Abe Saperstein had been watching his tryout and recommended the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) sign him.
Miñoso, like Jackie Robinson before him, was met with racism from white players. Early in his career, he was hit on the backside by Hal Newhouser just a few innings after Miñoso hit a home-run off the pitcher. Newhouser yelled “You n—–, you’re not supposed to hit a homer.” Miñoso responded with the iconic line “What can I say? I’m Black.”
Purposefully hitting Black players in the 1950’s was unfortunately very common.
Miñoso made his MLB debut on April 19, but was hardly used in Cleveland and spent his time in between leagues or on the bench. Without a need for a third baseman, Cleveland traded Miñoso to the Chicago White Sox on April 30, 1951.
On May 1, 1951, Miñoso stepped onto the field as the first African-American player to don a White Sox uniform. His very first at-bat was a first-pitch, 451-foot two-run homer off Yankees pitcher Vic Raschi. While Miñoso made an error allowing three runs that gave the Yankees the win, it didn’t seem to matter to White Sox fans. The White Sox went on a 14-game win streak two weeks later, and Miñoso certainly helped. The fans even gave him his own day later that season.
Seven Decades of Baseball
Miñoso played parts of 20 seasons in the majors, hitting .299/.387/.461 over 8,223 career plate appearances and receiving 13 total All-Star selections. Miñoso finished as high as fourth in MVP voting on five different occasions, and won three Gold Gloves. He became only the second player to play Major League Baseball for seven different decades after Bill Veeck activated him briefly in 1976 and 1980 — at age 50 and 54, followed by one-game stints in 1993 and 2003 for the St. Paul Saints.
Miñoso has received many honors. In 1983, his jersey number was retired by the White Sox and he has a statue on the Guaranteed Rate Field concourse that was unveiled in 2004. He was a Negro League All-Star and Major League Baseball All-Star. He’s a member of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame and the Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame. Miñoso has always been a trailblazer for Black Latinos, as well as an international baseball legend, and kickstarted the White Sox’s Cuban connection, which is thriving now more than ever with players like José Abreu and Luis Robert.
Hall Of Fame Worthy
In 2021, Miñoso was voted in via the Golden Days Era Committee and will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. He received 14 of 16 votes, guaranteeing his enshrinement in Cooperstown.
This honor, while well-deserved, is still bittersweet. Miñoso has always been worthy of the Hall, and it’s truly a shame that he passed before his induction. Miñoso’s journey through baseball was nothing short of impressive and impactful. He was owed his flowers while he was still around. Hopefully, voters will start celebrating and honoring players that have made an impact on the sport before it’s too late.
Photo by The Rucker Archive/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)