Chicago baseball icon Minnie Minoso has died, according to reports. Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Was the First Black Major Leaguer in Chicago
Nicknamed “The Cuban Comet” and “Mr. White Sox,” Minoso began his career in the Negro league in 1946playing with the New York Cubans. He was signed to the Cleveland Indians in 1948 becoming the first black major league baseball player in Chicago, and the first Black Cuban in the major leagues.
In 1951, became the first black player to play for the Chicago White Sox.
Born in Cuba, he was also one of the first Hispanic players to play for a major league All-Star team. As ESPN reported, Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda likened Minoso to other baseball greats who broke color barriers, calling him “the Jackie Robinson of Latino players.”
Minoso told ESPN that where you come from and the color of your skin should not really matter:
“I wanted people to know that it didn’t really matter where you came from. You’re from here or there, and it doesn’t really matter. But then, there were two skin colors — black and white. What was the difference, if you were black and born in Cuba, or black and born here in America? Your skin is black everywhere you go.”
2. He Was Born in Cuba on a Sugarcane Plantation
Minoso’s full name, at birth, was Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso Arrieta, though his surname came from his mother’s first husband.
Miñoso was born near Havana, Cuba on November 29, 1925. His father, Carlos Arrieta, worked in sugarcane fields on the plantation where the family lived. His mother had four other children from a previous marriage who had the surname “Minoso” from her first husband.
Minoso legally changed his name to Orestes Minoso when he became a U.S. citizen, eventually referring to Chicago as “his” Windy City in an interview with ESPN:
“I wanted to come to the United States of America. I refused to go to other countries, where they might have given me more [money] — Jorge Pasqual in the Mexican League [offered me] 40 grand — even when I hadn’t seen more than two or three hundred dollars in my life. But I told him I was going to the United States. He said there was a lot of discrimination there, and I said, “We have discrimination everywhere we are.” So I came here, and today I’m a citizen of the United States, living right here, in my Windy City.”
3. He’s Known as ‘The Black Cowboy’ in Mexico
After his career began to decline in 1961, Miñoso was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals before moving to the Washington Senators in 1963 though he was released in October.
He signed again with the White Sox in 1964, hitting his last home run in the Major leagues on May 6. He retired following the 1964 season, but had some success as a player and coach in the Mexican leagues, where he is known as “the Black cowboy,” as he told ESPN:
“I played and managed in Mexico for 10 years, and I’m in the Mexican Hall of Fame. There they call me the ‘Black Charro’ — the Black Cowboy. I played in the Pacifico League, which was much tougher than the Mexican League. I got to play on the same team with Hector Espino, one of the greatest players ever in Mexico. I remember being asked, “Minnie, why are you here?” And I told them, ‘Because I’m too old to play there.'”
4. The White Sox Retired Number 9 in his Honor
His number was retired in 1983, and a statue of Minoso was unveiled in 2004. Considered by modern players to be the first Hispanic baseball superstar, Minoso was an idol to many players who came after him, according to Cepeda, quoted in the Chicago Tribune:
“Orestes Minoso was the Jackie Robinson for all Latinos; the first star who opened doors for all Latin American players. He was everybody’s hero. I wanted to be Minoso. (Roberto) Clemente wanted to be Minoso.”
During an exhibition game in New Orleans, Minoso was told that if he, a Black man, played in the then-newly finished stadium, riots could break out. Minoso replied that as long as he was wearing his number 9, he was OK:
“And I said, if I died, I’d die happy because I was wearing No. 9 for the White Sox.”
5. He Was Denied Entry Into the Baseball Hall of Fame
Between 1950 and 1960, only Willie Mays was ahead of Minoso in stolen bases, exceeding Minoso’s 167 steals by 13.
Despite leading the American League both triples and stolen bases for three years, along with many other accomplishments — he won three Golden Glove Awards and lead the American League in the number of times he was hit by a pitch a record 10 times — Minoso was denied entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
Minoso told ESPN that he was “hurt” by the snub:
“Truly, I’m hurt. You know why? Because I’ve seen so many guys — and all of my respect is for them — get inducted [into Cooperstown], but my records are better. And I played more years. That’s what’s breaking my heart. I go to these card shows, and most guys there are Hall of Famers. Some of them got in later, but what difference should there be?”
As the Chicago Sun-Times reported, Minoso received eight of the 12 votes needed from the 16-member Golden Era Committee.