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White Sox Legend Minnie Miñoso Dies At Age 89

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 1, 2015 3:30PM

Minnie Miñoso in 2014. (Photo credit: David Banks/Getty Images)

Chicago mourns the loss of another baseball legend Sunday with the news that White Sox legend Minnie Miñoso has died. The first black player for the White Sox was 89.

Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso Arrieta was born November 29, 1925 in Cuba (although there is some dispute about the year of his birth—the White Sox list his age as 92) and played with the New York Cubans in the Negro League before he made his debut with the Cleveland Indians April 19, 1949. Mr. Miñoso received his big break when he was traded to the White Sox in 1951. He became the first black player in White Sox history and was an integral part of the “Go-Go Sox” teams of the 1950s.

In addition to breaking the color barrier with the Sox, Mr. Miñoso also became baseball’s first black Latin superstar and helped forge a legacy between the White Sox and Cuban baseball players that exists to this day. His charming demeanor earned him the nickname “Mr. White Sox” and his other nickname, “The Cuban Comet” referred to his basestealing prowess—he led the American League in stolen bases three times. He finished in the top five in AL MVP voting four times, was a seven-time All-Star, hit .300 or better six times and drove in more than 100 runs four times. Mr. Miñoso wasn’t afraid of being hit by pitches, so much that baseball wound up changing the rules of the game so that batters had to make an attempt to avoid errant pitches

Mr. Miñoso retired from the major leagues in 1964, but played and coached baseball in Mexico for nearly a decade after. He returned to the White Sox as a coach in 1976 and famously made headlines when he pinch hit and played designated hitter in three games that season, becoming the first player over 50 to get a hit. Mr. Miñoso repeated the stunt in 1980 at age 55. In 1983, the White Sox retired his number 9 and a statue in his honor resides at U.S. Cellular Field

Statistician Bill James listed Mr. Miñoso as the 10th-best leftfielder in the history of baseball and said had Mr. Miñoso not lost so many of his prime years to segregation, we’d be talking about one of the 30 best players in the history of the game. Yet Mr. Miñoso has yet to be inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame’s Golden Era Committee, which meets every three years to consider new inductees who aren’t eligible to be included on the current ballot, failed to elect him last year.

Mr. Miñoso spoke with ESPN’s Christina Kahrl about his career and his impact on the game last year.

The most important thing in my life? The fans. To have a smile, and pay them back with a smile. Sometimes, they might say something bad, and you don't like it? Will you let that get you? No, just smile. That's what I used to do when I was playing. I never thought I was going to do so many things, do so much for the team. I just wanted to play the game and do the best I can, for the fans, for my family, and for the country that I came from, to open the door for somebody else.

An autopsy is pending. Mr. Miñoso's son, Charlie Rice-Miñoso, told the Tribune he believes his father died from a heart ailment; Mr. Miñoso had heart troubles previously and had a pacemaker installed.

[Sun-Times, Tribune]