Kent Bush: Minnie Minoso was famous for the right reasons
I always loved Minnie Minoso.
The Cuban immigrant who was the ninth black player in the major leagues and the first in Chicago died Sunday. He was somewhere around 90. Because of his background, no one is sure exactly how old he really was. His name wasn’t even Minnie – or Minoso for that matter.
He was born Saturnino Orestes Arrieta. However, early in his baseball career, he was mistaken for his older half brother whose last name was Minoso, and he was basically given the name Minnie by sports writers just for the alliterative properties. He didn’t care what you called him as long as he was in the lineup.
Minoso played for years. He would have played for more.
“I’m ready to play,” Minoso once said. “I was born ready, and I’m going to die ready.”
He didn’t say that as a 25-year-old getting ready for the second game of a summertime doubleheader. That quote came when he was 65 and wanted to play in the final home stand at Comiskey Park on the Windy City’s south side.
Minoso’s career with the White Sox began in 1951. As a black player at that time, life wasn’t easy. Minoso made his stay in Chicago a little easier by getting off to a good start with his team’s fans.
Minoso hit a home run in his first Chicago at bat. That is a rare feat no matter the color of your skin. But for a black player in 1951, it is even more important.
He would go on to hit 181 more home runs by the end of the main part of his career in 1964.
Minoso batted almost .300 for his career. It would have been better if he had gone out on top instead of lingering the final three years of his career.
But beyond a bad end to a stellar career, Minoso was more than happy to come back as a sideshow. In 1976, he suited up again for two games. In his first at bat in the second game, the 51-year-old Minoso became the oldest man to get a hit in the major leagues in the modern era.
That short stint with the Sox also allowed Minoso to play in four different decades. He was set to play again in 1990, but having a 65-year-old running around in the outfield just didn’t seem right to the other pro baseball players, so his appearance was canceled.
But the stat that always caught my attention with Minoso – and the reason I invested a silly amount of money in one of his 1964 baseball cards – was not his ability to hit, but his ability to get hit.
He had 182 homeruns as a pro. He was hit by a pitch 192 times.
I love that.
His stance invited pitchers to throw inside to keep him off the plate. The color of his skin didn’t dissuade opposing pitchers from taking a shot at him either.
The best thing about that stat is that when Minoso played, players didn’t wear all the padding they do now. They didn’t even wear helmets.
But he didn’t care. Baseball was his first love and he gave everything to it.
“I have baseball in my blood,” Minoso said. “Baseball is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Despite his great career in baseball, Minoso is known more for his love of the game and how much others loved him.
That is true success whether or not he is ever elected to the Hall of Fame.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at email@example.com.