On December 5th, the BBWAA announced that its Hall of Fame Committees had selected six players for enshrinement in Cooperstown. Among them was Minnie Miñoso. The late Miñoso’s enshrinement was long overdue. He has long been a go-to example of one of the biggest Hall snubs. While it is certainly unfortunate it took this long to make the right call on one of the game’s greats, his election should be a focus on a celebration of his life, career, and achievement, rather than focusing on how long his induction took.
Miñoso’s career began when he was just 20 years old. He spent the 1946 season playing for the New York Cubans of the Negro National League. He was a bit below league average at the plate (94 OPS+) as a rookie, but broke out in his sophomore season, slashing .356/.406/.508, earning himself all-star status. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. This would pave the way for Miñoso to make his AL/NL debut a couple of seasons later in 1949 for Cleveland. After appearing in just 9 games over the first six weeks of the season, Cleveland sent down the young ballplayer, favoring the veteran third baseman Ken Kelter over the rookie Miñoso. Miñoso would spend the remainder of 1949 and all of 1950 in the minor leagues.
In 1951, Miñoso made his presence known. At the end of April, Miñoso was already off to a hot start, with an OPS north of 1.100 through his first 8 games. Yet, Cleveland dealt him to the White Sox as part of a three-team deal. It was there in Chicago that Miñoso would build his Hall of Fame resume. As a rookie in 1951, Minoso slashed .326/.422/.500 while leading the league in triples (14), steals (31), and hit by pitches (16). That was good enough to earn him an all-star nod, as well as a second-place finish in Rookie of the Year voting (NYY’s Gil McDougald) and fourth in AL MVP voting. This was just the beginning, as Minoso would go on to compile 8 more All-Star appearances (13 total), 3 more top 4 MVP finishes (4 total), and two gold gloves in left field, before hanging up the cleats in 1964 at age 38.
But the story doesn’t end there. In 1976, White Sox owner Bill Veeck was strapped for cash. He was willing to try anything to help out his checkbook. This included all sorts of promotions and gimmicks in attempts to lure fans to the ballpark. The most famous of these being when the White Sox took the field wearing shorts on August 8th. In September, Veeck announced that Minnie Miñoso would be returning to the White Sox as an active player. This was now 12 years after Miñoso’s original retirement. He was now 50 years old. Miñoso had been hired by the organization back in 1975, as a member of the coaching staff. Having remained active in the Mexican professional league, Minnie was reportedly still in great shape. He appeared in three games that September, going 1 for 8 with a single and two strikeouts. And with that, Minnie Miñoso rode off, as the sunset on a fantastic career.
Except, once again, the story still does not end there. In 1980, Minnie Miñoso was once again an active Major League Baseball player. In early October, he would appear in two games, both as a pinch hitter. On the fourth, he pinch hit for Greg Pryor in the seventh against Frank Tanana. He popped out in foul territory to the catcher. The next day, again in the seventh, Miñoso entered the game to hit for Chet Lemon, facing Dave Schuler. He grounded out to the third baseman.
And with that, Miñoso’s Major League playing career finally came to an end. “Major League” is an important caveat. Minnie actually attempted a comeback to the White Sox in 1990, but was unsuccessful. This didn’t keep him off the field, however. In 1993, at age 67, he appeared in a single game with the St. Paul Saints, an Independent team playing in the Northern League. He failed to record a hit in his sole trip to the plate. Ten years later, Miñoso returned to the Saints, once again appearing in just a single game. This time, the now 77-year-old managed to draw a walk, which, finally, marked the end of Minnie Miñoso’s playing career.
Miñoso has countless claims to fame. His numbers and accolades alone are arguably enough to warrant his inclusion in Cooperstown on their own. 13 All-Star appearances, 3 Gold Gloves, 53.8 bWAR, a career 130 OPS+, and 29 fielding runs. But, just numbers and accolades do a great disservice. When he made his debut in Cleveland, he became the first Black Cuban to appear in the Major Leagues, becoming one of the faces of integration in baseball. Additionally, Miñoso played longer than just about anybody. At 54 years old, he is the fourth oldest player to ever appear in a game, behind just Nick Altrock (57), Charley O’Leary (58), and Satchel Paige (60). Miñoso and Altrock are the only players to ever appear in five different decades. His appearances with the Saints made him the first player to appear in professional baseball in seven different decades. Often decisions are reduced to “quality or quantity”, but Minnie Miñoso’s career refused to make any such decision, instead opting for quality and quantity.
Matt O’Halloran is a junior mathematics major at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He works in analytics with the school’s baseball program. He is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and an editor at Diamond Digest. He can be found on Twitter @matto20.