Minnie Minoso set the stage for thousands of Latino baseball stars
By Max Miller
Saturnino Orestes Arrieta Armas Minoso, better known as Minnie, is recognized today as the first dark-skinned Latin player to play Major League Baseball. As such, Minoso blazed a trail – not unlike Jackie Robinson – for thousands of players who followed him to the big leagues.
Minoso grew up in the sugar fields near Havana, Cuba, and played for the Negro League New York Cubans from 1946 through 1948 before he was scouted by Bill Veeck's Cleveland Indians and brought into that farm system.
After appearing sporadically for the Indians in 1949 and 1951, Minnie broke the Chicago White Sox color barrier after a trade in 1951, when he was called up on May 1. In his first at bat, he launched a 415-foot home run into the left-field bullpen at Comiskey Park off of New York Yankees pitcher Vic Raschi. That day would mark the start of a common pattern in Minoso's baseball career, as his home run was overshadowed by that of another rookie who hit his own first home run in the sixth inning of that game. That rookie’s name was Mickey Mantle. Nevertheless, driven to a large degree by the energetic style of play of Minoso, by the end of May the White Sox were being referred to as the “Go-Go Sox,” a name that stuck through the 1950s.
Minoso did get considered for rookie of the year in 1951, though ultimately lost out to New York Yankee Gil McDougald. However, Minoso finished fourth in American League Most Valuable Player voting that season compared to McDougald's ninth-place finish.
Minoso still ranks in the top 10 in career hit-by-pitches for batters. His crouched stance and penchant for crowding the plate no doubt contributed to the 192 times he was plunked through 17 major league seasons. According to Minnie in 1955: “All the time I got hit, those pitchers (didn’t) mean it. It was (an) accident every time. My first year in the big leagues in 1951 one team... always called me names. I think they tried make me afraid. That's all.”
As much as Minnie means to baseball, he meant that much more to the city of Chicago, and the feeling was mutual. As Minoso said when he was brought back to the White Sox as a coach in 1976: “If I ever die, I want to die in Chicago.”
Still a fixture with the Chicago White Sox and in the Wrigleyville neighborhood he now calls home, Minoso’s number has been retired by the Sox, and a bronze statue of him was dedicated at US Cellular Field in 2004.
Max Miller was the 2012 library-photo archives intern in the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development