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Minnie Miñoso and the history he made in Cleveland finally arrives at the Baseball Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame Baseball
Posted at 3:25 PM, Feb 09, 2022

CLEVELAND — When Black History Month meets America’s Pastime, Jackie Robinson is the first name that comes to mind…and for good reason.

By breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier in Brooklyn, he opened the game to an entire community that had been aggressively kept out.

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FILE - Jackie Robinson, an infielder for the Brooklyn Dodgers, is seen at spring training in Vero Beach, Florida, in March 1956. A plaque honoring baseball legend Jackie Robinson that was vandalized in Georgia is coming to Kansas City's Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to be put on display. The sign was erected in 2001 outside the birthplace of Robinson near Cairo, Georgia. Community members there discovered last year that someone had shot the plaque multiple times. (AP Photo File)

But soon after, Cleveland played a central role in opening the door even wider and keeping it open for more players from more parts of the world. This year, when the Baseball Hall of Fame enshrines its 2022 class, Minnie “The Cuban Comet” Miñoso will finally clear his last barrier.

Growing up, it took a while for Charlie Rice-Miñoso to realize his dad wasn’t quite like the other dads.

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Charlie (L) traveled with Minnie (R) while Minnie was an ambassador for baseball after his playing days were over.

“I always just thought it was dad going to work,” said Rice-Miñoso. “He was an extremely humble guy and he was from a ranch in Cuba.”

By the time Rice-Miñoso was growing up, Minnie Miñoso’s playing days were behind him as a third baseman for the Negro League's New York Cubans, and outfielder for the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. By then, he was traveling the United States and North America as an ambassador for baseball.

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Miñoso stands with White Sox star José Abreu.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick says it was a job Miñoso was great at.

“Once you met Minnie, you just fell in love with Minnie,” said Kendrick. “He had an energy, a charisma that was so very infectious.”

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Cleveland Indians outfield Minnie Miñoso, right, talks to Tribe General Manager Frank Lane March 9, 1959 in Phoenix, Ariz. (AP Photo)

That’s despite everything Miñoso faced just to play the game he loved. He started in the Negro Leagues because when he came to the United States to play baseball in 1946, that was the only place where he could play.

“And here’s Minnie, coming from another country, speaking an entirely different language, having to adjust from his native homeland of Cuba to life in the Negro Leagues, being called the n-word...when he had no idea what the n-word even meant,” said Kendrick. “These athletes were literally carrying the weight of a race of people, and in Minnie’s case, the weight of two peoples.”

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Former baseball player in the Negro League Minnie Miñoso, stands behind the podium and jokingly gives a speech during his visit to the West Wing of the White House in Washington following his meeting with President Barack Obama, Monday, Aug. 5, 2013. Miñoso, who also played major leagues with the Chicago White Sox, is the only ball player to appear professionally in seven different decades. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

A few months after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, Miñoso won the Negro Leagues World Series. His New York Cubans beat the Cleveland Buckeyes in six games, including a match-up at both Cleveland Municipal Stadium and League Park in Cleveland.

Two years later, Miñoso would return to Cleveland, this time playing for the Indians as the first Afro-Latino player in the Majors, joining other Cleveland legends Satchel Page, Larry Doby and Luke Easter. Still, prejudices of the time were often made clear, no matter how good those players were.

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Minnie Miñoso broke into Major League Baseball with the Cleveland Indians before spending most of his career with the Chicago White Sox.

“Minnie, Satchel, and Larry Doby were all part of the Cleveland Indians team. They’re playing an exhibition game in Texas, and the three of them had to walk almost two miles to the ballpark because no cab would give them a ride,” said Kendrick. “And they’re walking in their uniforms because they couldn’t change into their uniforms at the stadium.”

The relatively large number of non-white players on the Cleveland roster is at least part of the reason Kendrick says Miñoso didn’t get a fair shot in Cleveland.

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FILE - In a April 6, 2001 file photo, Chicago White Sox legend Orestes "Minnie" Miñoso signs autographs prior to the Sox' home opener against the Detroit Tigers, at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Major league baseball's first black player in Chicago, Minnie Miñoso, has died. The Cook County medical examiner confirmed his death Sunday, March 1, 2015. There is some question about his age but the White Sox say he was 92. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

“I think there were those within the ranks of the Cleveland organization that went, ‘Uh oh, that’s too many Black folks on this team, we can’t have a fourth guy,” said Kendrick.

In 1951, Miñoso was traded to the Chicago White Sox, where his #9 uniform jersey number was retired in 1983 and a statue was unveiled in the early 2000s. He was elected to the Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.

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A statue of Minnie Miñoso stands in the outfield stands at the White Sox's Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago

Seven decades later, about a quarter of Major League Baseball’s players are Latino, including the only modern-era Hall of Fame Inductee elected by baseball’s writers in 2022, David Ortiz. Ortiz was born in the Dominican Republic, and Charlie says that connection isn’t lost on the Miñoso family.

“He would just be very proud of the fact that he was able to open doors and be the first for many and inspire many,” said Rice-Miñoso.

Hall of Fame Preview Baseball
FILE - Boston Red Sox David Ortiz reacts before a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Friday, Aug. 7, 2009, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Ortiz knows a thing or two about clutch swings late in the game. But he might put this one away in his first at-bat. Ortiz, a 10-time All-Star who spent most of his career with the Boston Red Sox, leads a group of 13 first-time eligible players getting serious consideration from voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

The irony is that a career partially defined by breaking barriers couldn’t clear the final hurdle into the Baseball Hall of Fame before Miñoso died in 2015.

“Minnie Miñoso wanted to be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and he deserved to be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Kendrick.

Minnie Minoso
FILE - In a March 9, 1957 file photo, Chicago White Sox outfielder Orestes "Minnie" Miñoso poses in batting position at Al Lopez Field in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo, File)

Kendrick says Miñoso’s stats and role breaking down barriers should have made him a lock. Baseball players and historians lobbied for The Cuban Comet, but he stayed on the outside looking in until the Golden Days Era Committee voted Miñoso in for the 2022 induction ceremony.

Miñoso is going in right alongside fellow Negro Leagues stars Buck O’Neil and fellow Cuban, Tony Oliva.

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Former Chicago White Soc player Minnie Miñoso throws out the ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the White Sox in Chicago, Saturday, April 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Baseball Heritage Museum at League Park assisted with this story by making their Minnie Miñoso memorabilia available to News 5 Cleveland.

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