“We Have Lost Our Friend and a Great Man. Many Tears Are Falling”
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Today’s Sad News
RIP Minnie Minoso
“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.”
Reinsdorf: “The first time I met him I fell in love with his infectious personality, his love for the White Sox…he was the most genuine person you could know…I really thought Minnie was going to live forever…there’s never been a better ambassador for the game and for the White Sox…outside of his family, the White Sox were the most important thing in his life…I just think it’s a miscarriage of justice that he hasn’t gotten in (the Hall of Fame).”
Former Teammate Billy Pierce: “When he got on base, he’d always take the extra base. He gave you 100% at all times. He was a great teammate & great friend.”
What Others are Saying
@ESPNChiSox: Adrian Nieto to cherish Minnie Minoso’s advice: “Just think you’re the best, but don’t say it or walk around like you are.”
@nlbmprez: Minnie Minoso’s historic career-from Cuba to the Negro Leagues to @mlb-is as important as any player in baseball history! @whitesox.
@whitesox: One of our favorite things about Minnie: he addressed everyone he met with a “Hello, my friend!” #MinnieMemories.
@TimRaines30: A big loss. My condolences to Minnie’s family & to his #Whitesox fans.”
@whitesox: “He was like a father to me. This is a tough day for me. I didn’t expect this.” – Alexei Ramirez on Minnie Minoso.
What They’ve Said in the Past
Orlando Cepeda: “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. Clemente wanted to be Minoso.”
Bill Surface: “It really doesn’t matter, though, if Minoso is 38 or 48. He plays ball like he hasn’t had a birthday in 10 years and at the age most athletes have retired, Minnie is the highest paid player on his team and the only player in the American League durable enough to appear in every game.”
Hal Lebovitz, on Minoso’s trade to Cleveland: “Perhaps no player in recent years has received a greater compliment–or has been shouldered with a greater burden–than this sturdy, heavily muscled five-foot, 11-inch bundle of vitality, humor and shatteringly bright personality.”
Frank Lane, former general manager: “I felt Minnie was the one player in the American League who had that intangible quality of excitement that makes fans talk about him when they leave the park.”
Furman Bisher: “As much a part of Minoso as his ability to run and hit and throw is his electrifying appeal. As soon as he gets on base, which is often, a sort of restless hum sweeps across the stands.
World Baseball Hall of Fame: “As a pioneering black Cuban star, Minoso was one of the earliest players of his race to appear in American League action; the flashy outfielder also paved the way for hundreds of dark-skinned Caribbean and Latin ballplayers who him to the big leagues.”
J.G. Taylor Spink: “Be his name Minoso or Arrieta, this recital is not meant to set down only the exploits of the hard-hitting, fleet outfielder who is a flashing, neon-like advertisement for the pennant-minded Chicago White Sox and Ted Williams’ nominee as the individual who could become the greatest player of modern times. It rather is the story of the poor little Cuban Negro boy who came along fortunately at a time when racial barriers had been broken and by intensity of purpose fought his way into the big leagues.”
Robert Heuer: “Minnie Minoso blazed a trail that led to all the way to the Hall of Fame for players like Roberto Clemente, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Rod Carew and Tony Perez. By the late 1950s, Minoso was a national idol and, as Perez told the Cooperstown gathering, his personal inspiration for success.”
Jerome Holtzman: “Minnie’s a pioneer. Just like Jackie Robinson.”
Authors Brendan C. Boyd and Fred Harris: “Minnie Minoso played the game the way it’s supposed to be played. He did not have the power of a Mantle or the overall talent of a Mays, but he sprayed hits to all fields, never swung at a bad pitch, crowded the plate, bunted, stole bases, broke up double plays, made diving catches and always hit the cut-off man. He loved to play baseball, was in every minute of every game he played and never let up, no matter how one-sided the score. He was what baseball is all about.”
Omar Minaya: “When we talk about major league baseball players, when we talk about the game that we’re seeing today, think about Albert Pujols. When we talk about these great ones, Mr. Minnie Minoso was one of the ones that paved the way for Latin players, to not only be recruited, but you’re talking about an All-Star.”
Tony Perez: “Every young player in Cuba wanted to be like Minnie Minoso and I was one of them. The way he played the game, hard all the time, hard. He was very consistent playing the game. He tried to win every game. And if you want to be like somebody, and I picked Minnie, you have to be consistent.”
Perez: “He was the biggest name in Cuba as a player. We followed him. Every young player over there wanted to be like Minnie Minoso. Myself, especially myself, because I came from a sugar company in Cuba like Minnie did. Minnie was a tremendous player and I hope pretty soon we get him in Cooperstown. I hope when his names comes up next time, he gets in.”
Bernie Williams: “When I was a kid growing up, I had two uncles who played baseball. One of them played professional baseball. Everybody in my family knew about the great feats of Minnie Minoso. When they were talking about the great players in my household, I said ‘Oh yeah, Minnie Minoso.’ Even though I never saw him play, I saw him in the eyes of my family.”
Felipe Alou: “I believe he is a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person. He played the game hard in Cuba, played the game hard in the Caribbean Series in Winter ball and played hard in the big league.
From the Minoso Family
“Our entire family appreciates the kind expressions of concern, sympathy and compassion from so many of our friends and fans of the White Sox during this most difficult time. Minnie lived a full life of joy and happiness, surrounded always by friends and family. It is during moments like these that love matters most. Minnie enjoyed nothing more than to be at the ballpark cheering on his White Sox. For Minnie, every day was a reason to smile, and he would want us all to remember him that way, smiling at a ballgame. As he so often said, “God Bless you, my friends.”
From President Obama
“For South Siders and Sox fans all across the country, including me, Minnie Minoso is and will always be ‘Mr. White Sox.'”
“The first black Major Leaguer in Chicago, Minnie came to the United States from Cuba even though he could have made more money elsewhere. He came up through the Negro Leagues, and didn’t speak much English at first. And as he helped to integrate baseball in the 1950s, he was a target of racial slurs from fans and opponents, sometimes forced to stay in different motels from his teammates. But his speed, his power–and his resilient optimism–earned him multiple All-Star appearances and Gold Glloves in left field, and he became one of the most dominant and dynamic players of the 1950s.
“Minnie may have been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but for me and for generations of black and Latino people, Minnie’s quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever could.
“Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to his family and fans in Chicago, Cleveland, and around the world.”
Robin on Minnie
A Moving Tribute
Ron Kittle lays a bouquet of flowers at the statue of Minnie.
A Goodbye from a Special Friend and Colleague
On an unbearably sad morning, upon hearing the news that legendary White Sox star and ambassador Orestes “Minnie” Minoso had passed away at the age of 90, amid the tears, the memories flowed.
Christine O’Reilly – recalling that Minnie, all of people, opened the ballpark door for her on her very first day with the White Sox in 1980 – didn’t even know where to start. “He just loved the White Sox so much.”
She also recalled when Minnie was having photos taken for what would become his life-size sculpture at U.S. Cellular Field. “I said ‘Minnie, you’re running late. You’re always on time.’ He said ‘I had to do some sit-ups before I came so I looked nice for the sculpture.’”
At former White Sox owner Bill Veeck’s funeral, Minnie dressed in a full White Sox uniform. “There was no one who cared more for the White Sox, and he wanted to pay his respect the proper way,” said O’Reilly.
Rest in peace, our friend.
Minnie in Elite Company
Photos of the Day
Cuban icons past and present.
Back in the day.
A moment of silence for Minnie at today’s Bulls-Clippers game at the United Center.