RIP Minnie Miñoso

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He was Major league baseball's first black player, but since he was Cuban Minnie Minoso was not considered to be the first African-American. I was extremely fortunate to have Saturnino Orestes Armas "Minnie" Miñoso Arrieta, a Cuban superstar and professional athlete make a special appearance at my birthday party when we lived in Cuba. Years later, I traveled to Chicago to get him to autograph a baseball. When I shared the story with friends and neighbors, they bought me this baseball card. Thanks, Bill and Elena!

The former White Sox great Minnie Miñoso was once struck by a pitch and homered in the same at bat, a strange feat considering you're supposed to take first base after being hit. He told reporters the story to illustrate his aggressive hitting style. In a minor league game, Miñoso turned into a pitch that struck him. The umpire refused to give him the base. Miñoso hung in and homered later in the same at bat. After he rounded the bases, the umpire asked if he was happy with the way things turned out. “Give me my first base the first time,” Miñoso told the ump. He was denied entry into the Hall of Fame last year.

In an era where pitchers hit batters for encroaching on their territory, Miñoso dug in and crouched low, limiting the size of the strike zone. His cavalier stance helped him to a .298 career batting average, with 1,023 RBIs. Crowding the plate and being one of only a handful of blacks in the major leagues made him a target for stray pitches. He was plunked a total of 192 times in his career. In 10 of his 17 seasons he led the league in the number of times being hit.

Miñoso was the first for the White Sox, arriving in 1951. However, he was a Cleveland Indian before that. Minnie was also the first publicly acknowledged Cuban ball player in Major League Baseball. His speed on the base pads earned him the nickname “the Cuban Comet.” Miñoso spent 13 full seasons and part of four others in the major leagues spanning from 1949 to 1980. He was also a three time Gold Glove winner, despite the fact that the award didn’t exist until he was 35 years old. He was elected into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and the World Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990.

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