Minnie Miñoso gets another Hall of Fame chance

Minnie Miñoso was a mentor to generations of Chicago White Sox players. He served many years as a player and coach, lived in the city a...


Minnie Miñoso was a mentor to generations of Chicago White Sox players. He served many years as a player and coach, lived in the city all year round, and maintained the team’s tradition as a welcoming place for Cuban stars. He liked to give this advice:

“Be in love with the game”, Miñoso said by phone in 2014. “Do whatever is beautiful for the game, the people and the country you represent. This is what I want everyone to do.

When Miñoso died the following year, he was only 89 or 92 – depending on your source – and his place in baseball history was just as puzzling. Was he mostly a solid, fast hitter in the 1950s? Was it primarily a carnival act for Bill Veeck, the maverick owner of the White Sox, who briefly activated it in 1976 and 1980?

Or was Miñoso one of the best and most important players in baseball history?

“To me Minnie is a legend,” former pitcher Jose Contreras, who arrived from Cuba in 2003, said on Monday through an interpreter. “He was one of the reasons I started playing baseball when I was a kid. I wanted to be like him. He was one of our best representatives, our Jackie Robinson.

The Hall of Fame is considering Miñoso again this offseason, relaunching one of its more curious nominations. In addition to the annual writers’ poll – which will feature David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez for the first time and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens for the last – two committees will examine more than 20 names from the past.

Miñoso is on the Golden Days ballot for candidates of the 1950s and 1960s. But his record moves on to the other ballot – Early Baseball – which largely rates black players of the era before integration. Miñoso arrived in the United States in 1945, inspired by Robinson’s signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and spent three years in the Black National League, helping New York Cubans win a championship.

“I can’t even count the number of times he and I sat in the conference room adjacent to my office, just talking about baseball and the life and joy he had for the game and why he chose to pass up more lucrative opportunities to come and play for the Cubans in New York, “said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.” He wanted to pursue the American dream, and he laid that foundation at so many more, because they knew they would have the opportunity to play this game. “

Many light-skinned Cuban players had appeared in the majors before Miñoso’s 1949 debut for Veeck’s Cleveland Indians. Miñoso, however, was dark skinned. He faced the same kind of racism directed at Robinson and other black players, without the same fluency in English to help him get by.

Miñoso was hit by throws 16 times in 1951, his first full season, and led the majors in that category nine times. He was comfortable cramming the plate, of course, but suspected there was more behind.

“My first year in the big league in 1951, a team – I don’t know who – always insults me,” he once told the New York World-Telegram and Sun, which quotes him in broken English. , as Jay Jaffe recounted “The Cooperstown Casebook” in 2017. They used foul language and referred to his race, Miñoso said, adding, “I think they’re trying to scare me.”

Miñoso persevered. From 1951 to 1961, he placed third in the Big Hits, behind Nellie Fox and Richie Ashburn. Miñoso had more steals and a better base hitting percentage and hitting percentage than both.

Fox and Ashburn are Hall of Fame members. So, of course, are Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Stan Musial, the only everyday players who have matched Miñoso in batting average (0.300), percentage on base (0.390) and percentage on hitting (0.450). during those 11 years. first.

Miñoso’s value is reflected in his wins over substitution, as calculated by Baseball reference. Dozens of Hall of Fame members – from Earl Averill and Hack Wilson in the 1930s to Jim Rice and Kirby Puckett in the 1980s – follow Miñoso’s total 53.8 WAR.

“There are Hall of Fame members who have less than that, if we look at the new numbers,” said former major league player Eduardo Perez, whose father, Tony Perez, is a Hall of Fame member. the fame of Cuba which idolized Miñoso.

“If we look at the analytics in terms of base percentage and PAHO, those numbers also belong. But the most important thing is to improve the organization, and Minnie Miñoso is in the Hall of Fame because of all these little things he has done to improve his teammates.

Miñoso’s exchange to Chicago in 1951 sparked a White Sox revival that culminated in 1959 with the franchise’s first World Series appearance in 40 years. Miñoso left his mark on this team in absentia; he had been sent back to Cleveland for Early Wynn, which won the Cy Young Majors Award in that 1959 season.

Perhaps if Miñoso had played in the World Series, or won a batting title or MVP, he would have garnered more attention from Hall of Fame voters. The writers virtually ignored him in 1969, and because of those cameos in 1976 and 1980 (which made him a five-decade player) Miñoso only regained his Hall of Fame eligibility in the midst of the 1980s.

By this time, many voters had never seen him play, or knew him primarily from returns. Miñoso lingered on the ballot until 1999, peaking at 21.1 percent in 1988, well below the 75 percent needed for the election. Subsequent committees weren’t much nicer; in 2006, Miñoso was rejected in a large vote on the Negro Leaguers because his time in Major League Baseball could not be counted.

This year may be different. In 2020, the MLB officially recognized several of the black leagues tied with the US and National leagues, a long-overdue move that expanded the official record books. Miñoso’s stats weren’t exactly hidden before, but the new context can only help.

Miñoso hit 0.351 in the 1947 and 1948 seasons for the Cubans, and then Veeck bought his contractual rights for $ 15,000. Cleveland is bursting with talent, so Miñoso spent most of 1949 and 1950 dominating the Pacific Coast League. Obviously, he should have continued his career as an elite major league, which would have bolstered his Cooperstown record.

“It should have happened when he was still with us, and I know how much it meant to him,” Kendrick said of the possibility of Miñoso being elected to the Hall of Fame, later adding, “I just think that we have a chance to get it right this time. We are here as an institution to continually try to educate people about these legendary baseball players who built the bridge. Minnie was one of those bridge builders, and those who become bridge builders in our society hold a very special place, Minnie Miñoso did that.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Minnie Miñoso gets another Hall of Fame chance
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