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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The great Minnie Miñoso: an idol from Cuba to Chicago

Por Jack Leyva

Baseball is a traumatic sport. The players are constantly exposed to be beaten by a hard ball. However, baseball is also a sport in which the most dedicated and disciplined athletes can last for a long period of time. In the MLB, several have been the men who have played with more than 50 years of age, a time in their lives in which is not easy to compete with younger and highly qualified players. Nevertheless, some men did more than that. They have achieved feats despite their age and one of those is the Cuban Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso Arrieta, known as Minnie Miñoso.

The Caribbean player became, in the year of 1976, the third oldest player to hit in the MLB, when facing Frank Tanana, from the California Angels. At the time, the man from Matanzas was 50 years old and was only third on the list of the most longevous baseball players of all times to hit in MLB, only surpassed by Charley O’Leary, who did the same thing when he was 58 years old and Jim O’Rourke, a member of the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, who at the age of 54 also had a hit in the MLB. But this is not his only record when it comes to longevity. He is the owner of a very strange one: he played in five different decades. The Cuban had his debut on April 19, 1949, with the Cleveland Indians and after that he would at least participate in one game in the 50’s, the 60’s, the 70’s and the 80’s, an honor he shares with the left-handed pitcher Nick Altrock.

Another one of his not so common records is the fact that he is the third oldest player in the MLB that had an at-bat opportunity when he was 54 years old. That happened specifically on October the Fifth, 1980, when he was a pinch hitter for Chet Lemon. That time he would bat a groundball to third base. The other players that have officially played at such an advanced age or even older than Miñoso are Satchel Paige (59) and Charley O'Leary (58). The Cuban was always revered by the public. “The most important thing of my life? The fans. To smile for them. Sometimes they would say mean things. If you don’t like it, would you let it get to you?” No, you just smile. It is what I used to do. I never thought I could do so many things, so much for the team. I just wanted to play and do it the best possible way, for the fans, for my family and for the country from which I come from, to open the door for someone else”, he said in an ESPN interview some years ago.

Miñoso was the first black baseball player in the Chicago White Sox team, arriving in the year of 1951. Besides he was also the first black Latin American that ever played in the MLB. He was also the ninth black player that got to the MLB after the mythical Jackie Robinson would break the racial barrier in the year of 1947. His debut with the White Sox was historical because, on May First, 1951, at his first time at bat he hit a homerun against the right-handed pitcher of the New York Yankees, Vic Raschi. In that season he was voted second for Rookie of the Year of the American League. The title would go to Gil MacDougal, from the Yankees. During the 17 seasons in which he played in the MLB, Miñoso hit 298, 1963 singles, 336 doubles, 186 home runs, 1023 RBI and 1136 runs. For that impressive list of achievements, Minnie has been acknowledged by all the fans. Even the former President of the USA, Barack Obama, expressed after his death, March 1rst, 2015: “For the residents of the Chicago South Side, and the White Sox fans all over the country, including myself, Minnie Miñoso is and always will be, Mr. White Sox”.