11/01/11 1:00 PM ET
Minnie Minoso book excerpt
By Bob Vorwald / Special to MLB.com
It seems like just yesterday to me when I came to the White Sox. It was May 1, 1951 against New York and I was playing third base. I had always been Orestes Minoso, but from that day on I was "Minnie." Who changed it? I don't know. I've become a citizen and I changed everything to Minnie Minoso.
Some people take life for granted, but I want to appreciate everything I've been given. First, I would have to thank the great fans for everything, because you can't do anything without them. They make you behave yourself when you think of the fans. You'll behave yourself if you think of them. I think that always helped me and I want to thank the fans for that.
My first at-bat was here in Chicago in 1951. The batter in front of me got a base hit. I came to the plate in the third inning and I came up and I hit one out of the ballpark for a home run. We lost the game to the Yankees 8-3, but I enjoyed it so much. I said, "What did I do?"
In the beginning, I thought the whole world was against me. They didn't have any other black ballplayers here. I was never afraid, though. I would always think that I could do anything I had to do. I would take it like a man. They hated me and called me names, but I never did anything about it. I remember getting hit with a pitch one time and it hurt, but I wasn't about to show it. I picked up the ball and the pitcher yelled, "Don't throw the ball back to me." I said, "You can't hurt me with that garbage you throw." It did hurt, but I wasn't going to show it. If you cried, you were giving in. This is the way it used to be and I am proud. I still thank God every day for giving me the assistance not to fight or go after anybody. I don't think people wanted to see that.
It was tough not to be Rookie of the Year that year. I won't criticize anybody for that, but I might hurt inside. Too many times for these awards, they give them out to guys who play on the winning team and not the player. What can you do? The writers gave it to Gil McDougald of the Yankees, because of the New York writers. The Sporting News gave me a trophy for their Rookie of the Year. You have to be the best ballplayer you can and the fans will know. The White Sox gave me a day in my honor, anyway.
I used to write letters to Frank Lane for my contract. I'd call him "Papa Number 2." You didn't have any agents at that time and he was the general manager. I'd hire my cousin to write the letter. In my second year, we traded letters and then Frank came to Cuba where I was playing winter ball. I came running in from left field and he had the contract there for me. I was making $7,000 my first year and I wanted $20,000. He offered $17,000. He told me that's all they could give me. I told him if they give $20,000, they would never have to give me another raise. He wouldn't do that and told me I would have many more good years. I signed it, but they gave me bonuses of a couple hundred dollars when I hit a home run or got a game-winning hit. I probably got another $6,000 in bonuses and he was always good to me.
I would get closer to the plate, stay there and wait for one pitch. Sometimes, pitchers would hit me and try to move me back. Pitchers today do the best they can from the middle of the plate out, but no one pitches inside. There's only a few. Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are about the only guys I see lately who will take the inside part of the plate. You're not trying to hurt anybody, but the pitcher needs that half of the plate. If they come inside, batters shouldn't think they have to go fight.
On the bases, I always had the green light. You have to take the same lead, whether you are going to steal or not. I'd get on first base, and the crowd would chant, "Go Min-nie, Go!" I had pretty good speed, but it had to be the right time. You can't steal bases for yourself, it has to be when it can help the team. Nothing makes me madder than to see someone steal third with two outs or other plays like that. Getting into scoring position by stealing second, that's what it was about. I respected the game.
I was traded to Cleveland in 1958. I was supposed to come back in 1959, but they didn't do the deal until the next year. I gave Cleveland 100 percent and I always respected the uniform I wore. When I came back the next year, Bill Veeck gave me a World Series ring and I still have it.
My first day I came back on Opening Day in 1960, I'll never forget it. It was a back and forth game. I hit a grand slam home run in the fourth inning to give us a big lead. The Athletics came back and kept getting runs until it was a tie game. In bottom of the ninth, I led off. I worked the count to 3-0, before I watched a strike go by. Then, I hit a 3-1 pitch into the upper deck and we won the game. I came back to Chicago and hit two home runs! People said, "That's our man!" I still am.
I'll never forget Comiskey Park, because that's where I started. You can never forget a place like that. You can't compare old parks to new parks. We had one of the greatest parks of all time.
For the Hall of Fame, I want to know why through three committees, the writers', the veterans', and the special Negro Leagues' committees, what reason do they have for not naming me? What did I do wrong? There are a few guys with fewer years and less records than I have and they were named to Cooperstown. I won't mention names out of respect. What's the matter with me and what did I do wrong? I want to be in Cooperstown. Compare my record to the different people there.
Jerry Reinsdorf called me "Mr. White Sox" and that was nice. Now I have people come up to me and want me to sign things with "Mr. White Sox." I've never changed. I'm the same guy that used to work on a ranch and played ball and the same guy I've always been. I'm going to die in this organization and I'm happy to be here until my last day.
In many ways, the arrival of the "Go-Go Sox" coincided with the arrival of Orestes "Minnie" Minoso, who broke the White Sox color barrier in 1951 after being acquired from the Cleveland Indians. The young outfielder burst onto the scene with a .324 average, 31 steals, and 74 RBIs. Minnie led the American League in steals his first three seasons and put together his finest year in 1954 with 19 homers, 116 RBIs, 119 runs, and a .320 batting average.
Minoso was an American League All-Star with the Sox in 1951-54, 1957, and 1960. He also made the team while with the Indians in 1959. He won three Gold Gloves in 1957, 1959, and 1960. (The Gold Glove awards didn't originate until 1957 or Minoso would have undoubtedly won more.)
Minoso was traded back to the Indians along with Fred Hatfield on December 4, 1957 in exchange for Early Wynn and Al Smith. He was traded to the Sox again on December 6, 1959 along with three other players for Norm Cash, Johnny Romano, and Bubba Phillips. The Sox traded Minnie to St. Louis on November 27, 1961 for Joe Cunningham and signed him again on April 8, 1964 before releasing him in July of that year. Bill Veeck arranged for Minoso to play several games as a designated hitter in 1976 and again in 1980 to allow Minnie to be a five-decade Major Leaguer.
Minoso's #9 was retired by the White Sox in 1983 and he was named to the Team of the Century in 2000. On September 19, 2004, the White Sox unveiled a statue of Minoso in the center field concourse at U.S. Cellular Field. He works with the Sox as a community relations representative.
Bob Vorwald is the Executive Producer for WGN Sports, a baseball blogger and the author of numerous books about White Sox and Chicago baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.