Fresh off AL pennant, White Sox bring back legendary Miñoso

Written by: Craig Muder

The Chicago White Sox were the defending American League champions in the fall of 1959, having finally outlasted the Yankees for the title after finishing second in 1957 and 1958 following five straight seasons in third place.

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But White Sox owner Bill Veeck was not content. And he decided that the reacquisition of Minnie Miñoso – who helped Chicago establish its consistently fine play throughout the 1950s – might be enough to keep the Sox atop the AL standings.

On Dec. 6, 1959, Veeck sent Norm Cash, Bubba Phillips and John Romano to Cleveland for four players – the most prominent of whom was Miñoso. The deal returned Miñoso to the Windy City, where he had played from 1951-57 before the White Sox sent him to Cleveland in a trade that netted Chicago Al Smith and Early Wynn, who both played key roles in the White Sox’s 1959 pennant.

Miñoso was about to turn 36 years old (records at the time listed his age anywhere between 34 and 37) but seemed to be fighting off any thought that his skills were diminishing.

“If Miñoso has slowed up, I’ll take a half-dozen like him,” Orioles manager Paul Richards told United Press International after the trade. “Last year, the White Sox had only two-thirds of an outfield. With Miñoso, they now have a complete one. They’ve added dash and they’ve added spirit.”

Midway through the 1959 season, rumors surfaced that Veeck was offering Phillips for Miñoso straight up, but at that point Cleveland general manager Frank Lane turned down the deal. Miñoso hit .302 with 21 home runs and 92 RBI for Cleveland in 1959 – nearly duplicating his numbers from the year before (.302, 24 homers, 80 RBI).

The White Sox, meanwhile, got little production from their right fielders in 1959. Veeck moved Smith to right field in 1960 and put Miñoso back in his old spot in left, and Miñoso led the league in both games played (154) and hits (184) that year while hitting .311 with 20 homers and 105 RBI, earning his ninth All-Star Game selection and third Gold Glove Award in the four seasons where they had been presented. The White Sox finished in third place with 87 wins – 10 games behind the Yankees – largely due to a regression in their pitching from 1959.

Miñoso slowed up a bit in 1961 but still hit .280 with 14 homers and 82 RBI. The White Sox then traded Miñoso to the Cardinals for Joe Cunningham following the season, and a combination of age and injuries kept Miñoso from being an everyday player ever again.

But Miñoso returned to the White Sox in 1964 and made cameo appearances in both 1976 and 1980 for Chicago. In between, Miñoso continued to play in the Mexican League, totaling more than 700 additional hits. All told, Miñoso finished his career with more than 3,300 professional hits.

“I went (to Mexico) for one year,” Miñoso said, “and stayed for 10.”

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2022, 73 years after he became the first dark-skinned Latin American player in AL or NL history when he debuted for Cleveland in 1949.

“To me, Minnie is a legend,” former Yankees pitcher José Contreras, a Cuba native like Miñoso, told The New York Times. “He was one of our best representatives, our Jackie Robinson.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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