Farewell to Minnie Minoso, baseball pioneer

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Minnie Minoso
Minnie Minoso was to White Sox fans what Ernie Banks was to North Siders.

Just a few short weeks after the passing of Ernie Banks, we return to remember the life of his counterpart on the South Side of Chicago, Minnie Minoso. Minoso was the first black ballplayer for the Chicago White Sox in 1951, two full years before Banks did the same for the Chicago Cubs.

Minoso was able to suit up and take the field as recently as 1980 at the major league level, and — I still can’t believe this happened — in 2003 in the independent Northern League. In fact, Minnie Minoso batted, and drew a walk, on the day my youngest daughter was born. That’s a strange bit of convergence that will probably always make me smile.

Simply put, there were no other black ballplayers from Latin America when Minoso arrived in the majors in 1949. And today, the list of black Latino ballplayers is long and distinguished. Cuban players like Tony Oliva and Luis Tiant and Jose Cardenal followed Minoso to the majors, and he also opened the door for players like Roberto Clemente from Puerto Rico, Juan Marichal from the Dominican Republic and hundreds more that can’t be named in this limited space.

If the Hall of Fame is intended as a place to honor those who impacted the game, then their snub of Minoso during his lifetime is nothing less than a damn shame.  He not only opened up a new flow of talent into the game, but he represented baseball — and the Chicago White Sox — with both class and dignity. There was nobody else quite like Minnie Minoso, and I salute him for that. And I’m not the only one, either.

The game that we love lost one of its all-time greats on Sunday. The Cuban Comet shone brightly during his lifetime, and we would do well to honor his contributions, both on the field and off.

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