01/08/2003 11:57 am ET
Minoso humble, hoping for Hall call
Chicago's first minority player is on veteran's ballot
By Damon P. Young / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Minnie Minoso's major league career was highlighted by mad dashes around the base paths, but his legacy is not one that will quickly pass.
Whether his on-field accomplishments are permanently acknowledged in the Hall of Fame cannot diminish the significance of his career. But, Minoso, one of 26 players and 15 managers, umpires and executives nominated by the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee, will find out next month if he has earned baseball's highest honor.
"It was some kind of a surprise," Minoso said of his nomination. "I don't know what to say, how to explain it, because I never expected that I would even be mentioned.
"I've always said that whatever happens to me, I'm going to enjoy it. I think it would be great."
The Veterans Committee will announce the results of its voting Feb. 26. All nominees receiving 75 percent of all votes cast -- 63 votes if all are returned -- will be enshrined during the annual Induction Ceremony on Sunday, July 27.
The restructured committee consists of 84 voting members, including the 58 living members of the Hall of Fame, 13 recipients of the Ford C. Frick Award and 11 recipients of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award. Former Red Sox announcer Ken Coleman and baseball executive John McHale, holdovers from the old voting system, will also vote.
The Cuban-born Minoso, born Saturnino Orestes Arrieta in Havana, was a legend in his homeland and the Negro Leagues before making a fleet-footed dash into the Major Leagues.
Four years after Jackie Robinson changed the face of the game in 1947, Minoso became the first minority player on either side of Windy City when he joined the White Sox in 1951.
"I am respectful to Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey," Minoso suggests. "When I watched (Rickey and Robinson shake hands), I said that's what will make the world the way it should be. They both took a chance and now look at it."
His 17-year big-league career -- spanning five decades -- was filled with many accomplishments, but one stands out among the rest for Minoso, who became a fan favorite on Chicago's South Side immediately after being traded to the White Sox on April 30, 1951.
Acquired from Cleveland in a three-team trade that also involved the Philadelphia A's, Minoso debuted with the White Sox the very next day and delivered a home run off New York's Vic Raschi in his first at-bat in the first inning at Comiskey Park.
But, it would be Hall-of-Famer Mickey Mantle, who made his big-league debut with the Bronx Bombers less than a month earlier on his way to becoming a legendary American sports hero, who would steal the spotlight from Minoso. Mantle's first Major League homer, in the sixth inning, would seal the Yankees' 8-3 win over the Sox.
Despite enjoying many memorable moments throughout his career, no other moment stands out more for the 80-year-old Minoso.
"The one thing that I never forget is May 1, 1951," says Minoso. "My first time at bat with the White Sox, I hit one out of the ballpark off Vic Raschi and in the same game Mickey Mantle hit one, too."
Minoso would go on to win the American League Rookie of the Year in 1951, hitting a career-best .326 (second in the league) with 14 triples and 31 stolen bases -- both league highs.
Despite being the first minority to reach the big leagues in Chicago, Minoso insists he never felt added pressure or scrutiny. He didn't think about it.
"I just came over here and didn't look at color," Minoso recalls. "Nobody in Chicago ever yelled at me. After hitting a home run in my first at-bat, everyone loved and respected me. That's why I've made my home here for 51 years. I'll be here forever, until God takes me."
Minoso's affection for Chicago and the White Sox is evident when talking to the seven-time All-Star, who had his No. 9 jersey retired by the White Sox in 1983.
He was inducted into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame in 1984, the World Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and he was voted to the franchise's "Team of the Century" in 2000.
He has continued his relationship with the White Sox, participating in numerous community service initiatives and appearing at local charity events, touching the lives of children, most of who don't know about the significance of Minoso's playing career, only of his warm-hearted personality.
"I used to play baseball but I'm not famous, I'm a regular guy," Minoso insists. "God gave me an attitude that attracts people. I enjoy it."
Has he started thinking about an induction speech if awarded baseball's highest honor?
"I have too many people to think," Minoso says humbly. "I don't know how to say thank you to the White Sox. I don't think I have the words to express my appreciation.
"I owe my baseball career to the White Sox."
A career that will remain etched in White Sox history, if not in bronze at baseball's Hall of Fame.
Damon P. Young is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.