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Minoso made his dream come true
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01/24/2003 12:51 pm ET 
Minoso made his dream come true
His dream was always to play professional baseball
By Minnie Minoso / Special to MLB.com

Minnie Minoso continues to be popular with White Sox fans at Comiskey Park. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
CHICAGO -- As a child, growing up in Cuba during the 1920s and 1930s, Minnie Minoso never wanted anything more than to play baseball in his home country. But, whenever he took the field, his quick bat, strong arm and fleet feet quickly caught the attention of coaches, players and scouts. He possessed a unique combination of gifts that would eventually bring him to the United States, where he would become much more than a baseball player.

I grew up on a small ranch, about 176 kilometers from Havana, with no television, no radio and no air conditioning. My family didn't have a lot financially, so it was difficult. I would go to school in the morning, come home and do a little homework and then go out to play baseball. It was the same routine every day, even if it rained. We had no baseball bat, no shoes, and no uniforms. We used to play with tennis balls. People from the local American factories would give us old tennis balls to play with.

Maybe God gave the rest of the kids more brains to learn in the school, but I think he gave me something different. I used to learn more from baseball than the other kids. Other kids used to listen to me on the baseball field. I was the leader on the field, making all of the decisions.

    Minnie Minoso   /   OF
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 175
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
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White Sox site
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As I was growing up, my only ambition was to play professional baseball in Cuba, nothing else.

When I was 9 years old, my friends and I formed our team and made our own uniforms. One day we played the local cigar factory team, the best team in town. We were not afraid of them even though they were much older and bigger than us. We just wanted to play them. At the time, I used to be the best pitcher, so I pitched against the cigar factory. The other kids I played against couldn't touch me. During the game I knocked down my older brother with an inside pitch. He just looked at me and I said, "Don't be afraid, get up there. We're not brothers here on the field. We're enemies." On the next pitch, I knocked him down again. He finally hit a double off the wall. We lost the game, but we showed that we could play.

Around 15 or 16, I finally went to Havana for the first time, but didn't get used to the city. I loved the ranch and I wanted to go back. So I did. But, after a while, there was still something on my mind. I wanted to play baseball. I decided I wanted to go back to Havana, but I didn't know how I could tell the people I was staying with. My mother had passed away and my father was living in a different city. I was living with my father's friend.

I came up with a plan. I had Humberto Hernandez, another player, write me a letter saying I was needed in Havana to play baseball. He wrote it and mailed it from Havana so it looked official. One day, while I was working in the fields, the letter came and I read it. "They must be crazy," I said. "Forget it." I wanted it but I pretended I didn't. My father's friend read the letter and told me "You're going to Havana. Put everything down, go get your clothes and get on the bus."


Maybe God gave the rest of the kids more brains to learn in the school, but I think he gave me something different. I used to learn more from baseball than the other kids. Other kids used to listen to me on the baseball field. I was the leader on the field, making all of the decisions.

So I left.

While playing semi-pro for a cigar factory in Havana, I was invited to tryout for a team sponsored by the Ambrosia Chocolate factory. When I went to practice, I saw a guy with a limp, kind of slow, at third and I told the manager that I played third base.

In the first game, we were down 2-1 in the eighth inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, I pinch-hit for a guy that had already struck out three times. The manager told me to just swing the bat. I was ready for the first pitch and hit a line drive past first base for a triple, giving us a 4-2 lead. We won and the other guy never played third again.

Later on I played for the Cuban Mining Co., one of the best semi-pro teams in the country. I actually was player/manager one year. The first game I played I didn't even have a number on my uniform. The guy playing third base hurt his leg chasing a foul ball in the eighth inning and the manager sent me in. With the score tied 1-1 in the top of the ninth and a runner on second, I hit a line drive between first and second, scoring the go-ahead run. We won the game and everybody wanted to know who was the guy with no number on his uniform.

Soon after, I would come to the United States for the first time.

I don't really know what my life would have been like if I hadn't played baseball. I probably would have been just another citizen on the farm, growing crops and raising animals, because my family didn't have the resources to dream of something other than the life on the farm. I probably never would have left the ranch. I was not too intelligent in school. God gave me a mind for the game. I went to high school on the streets, the university of people. I probably would have been a nice, decent, respected fellow with a little house. But, I never changed who I am because of baseball. I would have been just as happy without it.

Minoso, whose Major League career spanned 17 seasons and five decades, is one of 26 people nominated for induction into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Leading up to the committee's announcement on Feb. 26, Minoso and MLB.com will present a weekly series, offering a unique perspective on his life, from his childhood in Cuba to the Negro Leagues and, finally, in the Major Leagues. In this first installment, Minoso looks back on his youth and his passion for the game, recalling several stories about his semi-pro days in Cuba.

Despite his official birthdate of Novemeber 29, 1922, Minoso was actually born on that date three years later in 1925, making him 77 years old. He still lives on the Chicago's South Side, near Comiskey Park, where he immediately endeared himself to all White Sox fans with his heart and determination on the field.

Minnie Minoso's first-person account appears as told to Damon P. Young, an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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