Minnie Minoso spent 17 years in MLB, 12 of which were with his beloved White Sox. Early Sunday morning, the seven-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glover passed away at the age of 90.
Born in Cuba, he was, in the words of Orlando Cepeda, "to Latin ballplayers what Jackie Robinson is to black ballplayers." He began his American baseball career in the Negro Leagues, where he played, fittingly, with the New York Cubans from 1946 to 1948.
The Indians signed him during his last season with the Cubans and he made his Major League debut with the team on April 19, 1949. A three-team trade in 1951 brought him to the White Sox, where he became the franchise's first black player. In Chicago, he led the AL in stolen bases in 1952 and 1953 and made speed an essential part of the '50s "Go-Go White Sox."
Even after he retired, Minoso couldn't stay off the diamond. In 1976, he was the first- and third-base coach for the White Sox when he was called in to pinch-hit against the Angels. At the age of 50, he recorded his final hit. He made his last plate appearance, again as a pinch-hitter, in 1980 at the age of 54. But of course he wanted to play the game as long as possible:
"I have baseball in my blood. Baseball is all I've ever wanted to do." - Minnie Minoso pic.twitter.com/gxQSVyrTTt- Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 1, 2015
So of course he threw out a first pitch or two:
The Sox retired his number in 1983:
And honored him with a statue at U.S. Cellular Park in 2004:
The baseball community will deeply miss Minoso and his enthusiasm for the game:
One of our favorite things about Minnie: he addressed everyone he met with a "Hello, my friend!" #MinnieMemories- Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 1, 2015
RIP Minnie Minoso, who spent parts of four seasons with the Tribe and hit 45 homers combined in '58-'59. pic.twitter.com/HAieDVgIEZ- Cleveland Indians (@Indians) March 1, 2015
A tough morning hearing about Minnie. He just had his Birthday party at the Brewhouse not long ago!! I will remember his laughter that night- Frank Thomas (@TheBigHurt_35) March 1, 2015
So, I was interviewing President Clinton in the clubhouse at Fort Lauderdale Stadium years ago when an old ballplayer walked up.- Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) March 1, 2015
President Clinton motioned his Secret Service guys aside, threw his head back and beamed: "Minnie Minoso? Boy, am I glad to see YOU!"- Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) March 1, 2015
Minnie loved the @whitesox like no one else. A pioneer for the Latino players. A class act always with a smile on his face. A true gentleman- Ozzie (@oguillenjr) March 1, 2015
"When I die, I want to be playing baseball...If I die, I die happy because I was wearing No. 9 for the White Sox." pic.twitter.com/zKPYIf5ORK- Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 1, 2015