On August 20, 1961 I saw my first Major League baseball in person at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium. The Kansas City Athletics played the Chicago White Sox whose left fielder that day was Minnie Minoso. Saturnino Orestes Arrieta Armas “Minnie” Minoso died this past March 1. He was 89 years old.
My knowledge of Minoso was typical for a 10 year old African American baseball fan during that time. I knew the Cuban was one of the few players of color in the American League and that he was an All Star. But I had no real understanding of how significant a role the player I saw in a White Sox uniform that day with my ten year old eyes had in baseball history.I did not realize Minoso was a product of the Negro League baseball era. Dark skinned Cubans experienced the same racial discrimination as African Americans and were kept out of Major League baseball for almost the first half of the 20th Century. Minoso began playing third base in 1946 for the New York Cubans. He was the East squad’s starting third baseman in the Negro League East West All Star Game in 1947 and helped his New York team win the 1947 Negro League World Series Championship.
He was one of the black players that immediately followed Jackie Robinson and overcame racial obstacles to have a successful Major League career. After being signed by the Cleveland Indians after the 1948 season, Minoso was traded to the Chicago White Sox and became the first black player to wear a White Sox uniform. In 1951 as a 26 year old rookie, he hit .326 with 34 doubles, 14 triples, and 76 RBIs. He finished second in voting for American League Rookie of the Year. A five time All Star while with the White Sox from 1951 – 1957, Minoso was the first Hispanic Major League star player.That day I saw him, Minnie Minoso was 35 years old. It was the second year after he had come back to the White Sox in 1960. Although he was only 1 for 5 in his team’s 5 – 3 victory that afternoon, he hit .280 in 1961; his last year as a full time player. It is debated as to whether Minnie Minoso should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Some say his main career offensive statistics of 186 home runs, 1,023 RBIs, and a .298 batting average do not meet Hall of Fame standards. However, his career statistics are higher than his two White Sox teammates I saw that afternoon who have plaques at Cooperstown; Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio.
Minnie Minoso will forever be a part of the thrill and excitement of that day I still remember after 54 years.
March 5th was the publishing launch day for my first book, Last Train to Cooperstown: The 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees from the Negro League Baseball Era. You can order the book now only through the publisher, Black Rose Writing, at: http://www.blackrosewriting.com/sports/last-train-to-cooperstown. The price for it is $14.95. It will not be available on other online sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble until 1 – 3 weeks.