Minnie Miñoso

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Negro Leaguer of the Month

August, 2008

Saturnino Orestes Arrieta Miñoso

Born: Nov. 29, 1922 in Perico, Cuba
Ht: 5'-10", Wt: 180
Position: Third base
Years Played: 1945-03
Batted and threw right
Teams: New York Cubans, Dayton (minors), San Diego Padres, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, St. Paul Saints, Mexico

Although the "years played" listed above might appear to be a misprint, Miñoso did "play" in six different decades, though the last two were merely for fun.

Miñoso, nicknamed "the Cuban Comet," "The Black Cowboy," and "Mr. White Sox," grew up in Cuba where he idolized Martin Dihigo.

Minnie started playing semipro ball as a 20 year-old, making $2 a game. and first entered the Negro Leagues with the New York Cubans in 1945. In '46, Miñoso led the Cubans to the Negro National League pennant and World Series Championship over the Cleveland Buckeyes as their regular third baseman and lead off hitter.

Miñoso earned extra money during most winters playing winter baseball in Cuba, and rolling cigars!

In '47 and '48 Miñoso was the starting third baseman for the East in the East-West game, going 0 for 3 in the '47 game, 1 for 4 in a second '47 All-Star game in the Polo Grounds, and 1 for 4 in the '47 classic.

After his performance in '47, Miñoso was signed by the Cleveland Indians and sent to the minors.

Minnie batted over .500 for Dayton, before being promote to the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League where he batted over .330 with more than 100 RBIs. He was soon in the Majors for good, sticking with the Sox in 1951 at age 28.

While the National League Rookie of the Year in '51 was fellow Negro League veteran Willie Mays, Miñoso (.326, 10 homers, 76 RBIs) came in second to the Yankees Gil McDougald for American League honors.

Miñoso was an exciting player with great speed, and a flashy style of play. In mid-1951, Minnie was traded to the Chicago White Sox and homered in his first at bat with Chicago in a game against the Yankee's Vic Raschi.

White Sox fans loved Minnie and the cat-and-mouse games he played with opposing pitchers whenever he got on base.

In the Majors, Minnie was a seven-time all-star, led the American League in triples and stolen bases three times, in total bases once, and finished in the top 10 for batting average in the league eight times. Miñoso liked to crowd the plate, and was hit by pitches 192 times in his career.

Once Minnie was moved to the outfield and could capitalize in his great speed, he also won three Gold Gloves. In 20 at bats in Major League All-Star Games, Minnie batted exactly .300.

After retiring from the Majors, Miñoso played in the Minors and Mexican Leagues, and could still hit when he was well into his 50s.

In 1976, Bill Veeck signed Miñoso to play for the the White Sox so that he could become a "four-decade player." In 1980 he played in his fifth decade, singling in eight at bats for the White Sox, then after Major League baseball wouldn't allow Miñoso to play Minor League ball in 1990, he had to wait until 2003 to make a comeback when he drew a walk (intentional) while playing with the St. Paul Saints, owned by Bill Veeck's son Mike.

Considering that Minnie didn't make the Majors for good until he was 25 due to segregation, "The Cuban Comet" deserves serious consideration for the Hall of Fame. Minnie batted .298 lifetime (his at bats in '76 and '80 brought him under .300) with 1136 runs, 1023 RBIs and over 3000 total bases. During the 11-year period from 1951-1961 only Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Ted Williams were better offensive players than Minnie.