Today marks 70 years since the great Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso made his Chicago White Sox debut.
At the time, the Negro Leagues All-Star third baseman earned the attention of Major League Baseball after leading the New York Cubans to a Negro World Series in 1947. He was acquired by the Sox via a three-team trade with rival Cleveland Indians.
With his first appearance at Comiskey Park on May 1, 1951, Miñoso broke the franchise’s color barrier as the White Sox became the first sports organization in Chicago and sixth Major League Baseball team (four years after Jackie Robinson) to feature a Black player.
In one of the most iconic and celebrated moments in White Sox history, Miñoso homered on the first pitch in his very first plate appearance off New York Yankees right-hander Vic Raschi. What followed, was a rookie campaign that led the American League in stolen bases and triples. It was a nothing-short-of-spectacular start to a 17-year MLB career that spanned five decades.
Aptly dubbed “The Cuban Comet” given his hometown of El Perico, Miñoso spent 12 seasons on the South Side, finishing his career as a nine-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. He tallied 1,963 hits, 186 homers, 1,136 runs, 1,023 RBI and 205 stolen bases.
Miñoso, who identified as Afro-Latino, put up Hall-of-Fame-worthy numbers while overcoming widespread racism that was rampant during baseball’s integration period. Standing alone as the game’s first Afro-Latino star, he faced it all with his notable №9 smile.
“My father and my mother taught me there was a way to pay somebody back. ‘If they try to break your arm or break your face: Pay them back on the field with a smile on your face,’” Miñoso said in an interview with ESPN in 2015. “I used to keep my teeth clean all the time, just to make sure that’s how I gave it back to them.”
After his playing days, Miñoso or “Mr. White Sox” remained dedicated to the organization and growing the game of baseball. He used his spare time to coach and mentor young, inner-city athletes through the White Sox Amateur City Elite program and continued to serve as a role model for the Black and Latino players that make up the majority of the current White Sox roster. While Hall of Fame first baseman Orlando Cepeda may have coined the term, everyone agrees Miñoso is “the Jackie Robinson of Latino players.” His №9 has been retired for the White Sox since 1983.
Sadly, Miñoso passed away in 2015, but the smiling, South Side slugger’s legacy will live on forever. He will always be remembered and celebrated as one of the game’s best — a pioneer and a powerful force for good that left the sport better than when he found it.
White Sox fans can visit the Minnie Miñoso statue promptly displayed in the centerfield concourse at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Note: Miñoso and the other potential candidates will be considered in December 2021 for possible induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in the summer of 2022.
White Sox Remember 70 Years Since Minnie Miñoso’s Debut was originally published in Inside the White Sox on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.