2022 Golden Days Era Committee Candidate: Minnie Miñoso

The following article is part of a series concerning the 2022 Golden Days Era Committee ballot, covering managers and long-retired players whose candidacies will be voted upon on December 5. It is adapted from a chapter in The Cooperstown Casebook, published in 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books. For an introduction to the ballot, see here, and for an introduction to JAWS, see here. All WAR figures refer to the Baseball-Reference version unless otherwise indicated.

Minnie Miñoso

2022 Golden Days Candidate: Minnie Miñoso
Player Career Peak JAWS
Minnie Miñoso 53.8 39.7 46.7
Avg HOF LF 65.7 41.7 53.7
2,110 195 216 .304/.388/.489 (130 OPS+)
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

“He played with reckless abandon aimed always at achieving nothing short of total victory; his was flair with a clear work ethic. He stole bases with a game on the line, harassed pitchers with daring base-running ploys, took extra bases and made impossible wall-crashing catches.”—Peter Bjarkman, Baseball with a Latin Beat

In May 2014, the Hall of Fame unveiled “The New Face of Baseball: Osvaldo Salas’s American Baseball Photographs 1950-1958,” an exhibit of the work of a Cuban-born photojournalist who documented the influx of Latin and African-American players into Major League Baseball in the wake of Jackie Robinson’s debut. One of the first photos prominently featured, near those of better-known icons such as Ernie Banks and Willie Mays, is that of Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso, recognized as “the first Afro-Latino big leaguer and the first black player to don a Chicago White Sox uniform.” Not far from the photo is an inscription, set high on the wall:

“Orestes Miñoso was the Jackie Robinson for all Latinos; the first star who opened doors for all Latin American players. He was everybody’s hero. I wanted to be Miñoso. Clemente wanted to be Miñoso.” — Orlando Cepeda

Cepeda’s words are from an interview with the Puerto Rico-born Hall of Fame slugger that plays in the museum’s “¡Viva Baseball!” exhibit, in which Miñoso, “The Cuban Comet,” is prominently featured. While Miñoso’s work as a pioneer is thus acknowledged in the Hall, the fact that he has been deprived of the ultimate honor of induction, despite the combination of his historical importance and his long run as one of the American League’s top players — and before that a star in the Negro Leagues — might rank as the institution’s most glaring injustice.

Some history is in order. Before Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, dozens of players from Latin America played their part in bending it — 53, according to historian Adrian Burgos Jr.⁠ While darker-skinned Latino players who came to the United States had no hope of crossing the color line before Robinson, a smattering of lighter-skinned ones were signed by major league teams, starting with Cuban-born Esteban “Steve” Bellan, who played with the Troy Haymakers and New York Mutuals of the National Association from 1871-73. In 1910, the Reds signed Cuban players Rafael Almeida and Armando Marsans, with team president and owner Gerry Herrmann convincing the Cincinnati press that the pair were “two of the purest bars of Castille soap that ever floated to these shores.”⁠ Others followed in their wake. In the early 1920s, the Reds’ Dolf Luque became the first Cuban pitcher to gain stardom. Mel Almada became the first Mexican major leaguer in 1933, Alex Carrasquel the first from Venezuela in ’39 and Hiram Bithorn the first Puerto Rican player in ’42.

Still, the majors were off limits to dark-skinned Latino players until Robinson broke through. Cleveland owner Bill Veeck, the maverick who integrated the American League by signing Larry Doby less than three months after Robinson’s debut, signed Miñoso out of the Negro Leagues after the 1948 season, though he didn’t really get a chance to establish himself in the majors until ’51. Once he did, he became one of the game’s top all-around players, a dynamo with speed, an excellent batting eye, considerable pop, and no shortage of flair. Not only did he have to endure discriminatory practices and racial slights similar to what the first wave of Black players encountered, he faced a language barrier and a foreign culture as well. Opponents hit him with pitches and spewed venomous slurs at him. One team released a black cat onto the field in front of him, calling it “Minnie.” Segregated restaurants and hotels prevented him from dining and staying with his teammates.

In the face of such trying circumstances, Miñoso not only avoided intimidation and retaliation — taking great pains not to play into the stereotype of the hot-blooded Latino — but thrived, earning All-Star honors seven times between 1951 and ’64, placing fourth in the AL MVP voting four times, and winning three Gold Gloves. After that run he played and managed in the Mexican League, then returned to the Veeck-owned White Sox, first as a coach, and then in both 1976 and ’80 as a late-season DH/pinch-hitter. Those stints, which carried into his 50s, made him the second major leaguer to have played in parts of five decades (1940s through ’80s). Blocked from further cameos by commissioner Fay Vincent, he made similar appearances in 1993 and 2003 with the independent Northern League’s St. Paul Saints, whose part owner, Mike Veeck, was a chip off the old block.

While Miñoso’s drawn-out epilogue elevated his status as one of the game’s greatest ambassadors, it may have cost him Hall of Fame votes; for some voters, the gimmickry may have obscured the greatness of his prime. For others, it was simply a matter of the writers most familiar with Miñoso not getting the full opportunity to vote for him. The Hall’s own rules, which prevented voters from considering the totality of his accomplishments on both sides of the color line, cost him as well. Less than three months after falling shy of the necessary votes via the 2015 Golden Era Committee balloting, Miñoso passed away, well into his nineties (that his exact age is something of a mystery figures into our story).

At last, he’s up again, and this time with a twist: His statistics from his three-year stint with the Negro National League’s New York Cubans now count as major league, which serves both to flesh out his statistical record (he’s now credited with over 2,000 hits) and to remind us that he was deprived of a significant chunk of his career.

Miñoso’s most basic biographic details are confusing. The son of Carlos Arrieta and Cecilia Armas was born in El Perico, Cuba, a town near Havana, on November 29 sometime between 1922 and ’25. In his 1994 memoir, Just Call Me Minnie, Miñoso claimed, “I was 19 years old when I arrived in the United States in 1945, but my papers said I was 22. I told a white lie… to obtain a visa, so I could qualify for service in the Cuban army. My true date of birth is the 29th of November, 1925.”

On this matter, however, Miñoso must be regarded as an unreliable narrator. His official website uses the 1922 birth date, while his ’46 Cuban passport shows ’23. Upon news of his passing, the White Sox claimed he was 90 years old, which would put 1924 as his birth year. Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, and the Seamheads Negro Leagues database use 1925. That’s hitting for the cycle — call it The Four Ages of Minnie.

More clearly, the hero of the Four Ages of Minnie was baptized as Saturnino Orestes Arrieta Armas — “‘Arrieta’ for my father and ‘Armas’ for my mother” as he explained in his memoir — but became known as Miñoso because his mother had four children from a previous marriage by that name. “Minnie,” as the story goes, came from a misunderstanding involving a dentist named Dr. Robinson calling for his female receptionist, Minnie. Upon becoming a US citizen sometime in the 1980s, he legally changed his name to Orestes Miñoso.

Growing up, Miñoso worked in the sugar cane fields like his father, and learned baseball while playing in the sandlots with older half-brother Francisco Miñoso. Modeling his game after Cuban star Martin Dihigo (elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977), he played every position at one time or another, including catcher and pitcher. In 1943, he began playing semipro ball for $2 per game for Ambrosia Candy, and worked his way up the sport’s ladder, moving on to cigar manufacturer Partegas’ team, the Marianao winter league team (where he won Rookie of the Year honors in 1945 while making $200 per month) and then the New York Cubans of the Negro National League, who offered him $300 per month. Carrasquel, the aforementioned Venezuelan major leaguer, was the one who signed him.

Encouraged by the Dodgers’ signing of Robinson in October 1945 — heralding the upcoming challenge to the majors’ longstanding color barrier — Miñoso came to the U.S. Playing primarily at third base, he starred for the Cubans from 1946-48, helping them win the NNL pennant in ’47 and starting all four of the East-West Games played in ’47 and ’48. By the data we now have thanks to diligent researchers, Miñoso hit .356/.406/.508 (149 OPS+) in 192 PA in 1947, and .344/.381/.556 (176 OPS+) in 161 PA in ’48; his OPS+ ranked second in both seasons, and his slash stats all ranked among the top five save for his 1948 OBP, which was eighth. The Baltimore Elite Giants’ Henry Kimbro led in all four categories in the former season, and in OBP in the latter, while Miñoso placed ahead of familiar names such as Monte Irvin and Luke Easter.

Acting on a tip from Harlem Globetrotters owner Abe Saperstein, whose players sometimes suited up for Negro League teams to earn extra money, Veeck purchased Miñoso’s contractual rights from Cubans owner Alex Pompez for $15,000 after Miñoso helped the Cubans win the Negro League World Series in 1948. Sent to Cleveland’s Dayton affiliate to finish out the season, Miñoso set the Central League ablaze, going 21-for-40 with nine extra-base hits in an 11-game trial.

That wasn’t enough for him to crack the lineup. Cleveland won the 1948 World Series with All-Star Ken Keltner at third base as well as Doby and hot-hitting Dale Mitchell in the outfield. In addition to Doby, Cleveland’s roster also included Easter and Satchel Paige, two other former Negro Leaguers. Adding another, at a time when three-quarters of AL teams had yet to integrate, may have seemed like a bridge too far, so Miñoso spent most of 1949 and ’50 pulverizing Pacific Coast League pitching for the San Diego Padres, Cleveland’s highest-level affiliate. He did play nine games for the big club in ’49, debuting on April 19 and becoming just the eighth player to cross the color line:

The First Black Players in the NL and AL
Player Team Debut
Jackie Robinson+ Dodgers 4/15/1947
Larry Doby+ Indians 7/5/1947
Hank Thompson Browns 7/17/1947
Willard Brown+ Browns 7/19/1947
Dan Bankhead Dodgers 8/26/1947
Roy Campanella+ Dodgers 4/20/1948
Satchel Paige+ Indians 7/9/1948
Minnie Miñoso Indians 4/19/1949
+ = Hall of Famer

Miñoso went 3-for-20 during his brief stay with Cleveland and was lost in the shuffle after Veeck — who needed cash to settle his divorce from his first wife, Eleanor — sold the team following the 1949 season. He returned to San Diego for the 1950 campaign, and while he broke camp with Cleveland to start ’51, he was limited to pinch-hitting and backing up Easter, the starting first baseman. On April 30, a day after Miñoso went 5-for-8 with a pair of doubles while starting at first for both games of a doubleheader, he was dealt to the White Sox as part of a three-team, seven-player trade that also included the Philadelphia A’s. The newly liberated Cuban Comet announced his presence in Chicago the next day by clouting a two-run homer off the Yankees’ Vic Raschi as part of a 2-for-4 day. In the process, the White Sox became the sixth team to integrate, following the Dodgers, Indians, Browns, Giants, and Braves.

Miñoso split his time between third base and both outfield corners for the Sox in 1951, hitting a sizzling .326/.422/.500 with 10 homers and a 151 OPS+ while leading the league in triples (14), steals (31) and hit-by-pitches (16), finishing second in batting average and fourth in WAR (5.4). Sox fans took to him to such a degree that September 23 of that season became Minnie Miñoso Day, when the rookie was showered with gifts, including a television and a Packard. Thanks to Miñoso’s performance and the maturations of double play combo Nellie Fox and Chico Carrasquel (nephew of Alex) as well as staff ace Billy Pierce, the White Sox snapped a streak of seven straight losing seasons, improving from 60-94 in 1950 to 81-73.

For his stellar season, Miñoso placed second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind the Yankees’ Gil McDougald, and fourth in the AL MVP vote behind three of McDougald’s New York teammates, including the winner, Yogi Berra. Many around the game, including venerable New York World Telegram and Sun scribe Dan Daniel and White Sox general manager Frank Lane, suggested that the Yankees’ pennant weighed too heavily in determining the Rookie of the Year. For what it was worth, The Sporting News gave its own AL Rookie of the Year award to Miñoso, based upon a poll of 227 BBWAA writers instead of just the three per city from the BBWAA vote.

Award or no, Miñoso’s stellar rookie season began an 11-year stretch over which he hit .305/.395/.471 (134 OPS+) with an average of 16 homers, 18 steals and 4.7 WAR per year. He was a constant presence on AL leaderboards, ranking in the top 10 in batting average eight times, in on-base percentage nine times (five times in the top five), and in slugging percentage six times. His OBP received an extra boost via his tendency to crowd the plate and get hit by pitches; he led the league a record 10 times in that painful category, and more than a half-century after the end of his days as a regular, his 195 times taking one for the team still ranks 10th all time.

Those hit-by-pitches carried a cost. In 1955, three years before the AL began requiring all players to wear batting helmets, a pitch from the Yankees’ Bob Grim fractured Miñoso’s skull, sidelining him for 15 games. “I been hit in head eight times. But I rather die than stop playing. Is best game in the world,” Miñoso told the New York World Telegram and Sun’s Lou Miller, who like many other scribes of the era insisted upon quoting Miñoso in broken English. “My first year in big league in 1951 one team — I no tell who — always call me names. They say, ‘We hit you in head, you black ——.’ I think they try make me afraid.”

Remarkably, given all of the times Miñoso was drilled, the 1955 season was the only one in that 11-year span in which he played fewer than 146 games, and the schedule didn’t expand from 154 games to 162 until the final year of that stretch. Nearly 60 years after that incident, in the final interview of his life, Miñoso illuminated the connection between his propensity for being plunked and a larger philosophy of life:

What was I doing wrong in the game, that they’d purposefully want to hit me? They didn’t do it because I’m nice-looking, and I didn’t do it to get the record. I crowded the plate, because if you only have to look middle-outside, you can kill a pitcher, and if it’s outside it’s a ball.

My father and my mother taught me there was a way to pay somebody back, if they tried to break your arm or break your face: Pay them back on the field with a smile on your face. I used to keep my teeth clean all the time, just to make sure that’s how I gave it back to them.

Beyond the beanings, Miñoso led the AL in steals and triples three times apiece, and in total bases once, with eight other top 10 finishes in that category and eight in OPS+. He earned All-Star honors seven times, starting for the AL in 1954, ’59 (the first of two games) and ’60 (both games), and won three Gold Gloves after the award’s introduction in 1957. He finished fourth in the AL MVP voting four times, and ranked among the top 10 in WAR six times, with his 8.2 WAR leading the league in 1954. His 52.2 WAR over the 1951-61 span ranked eighth in the majors, and second in the slow-to-integrate AL behind only Mickey Mantle. Only Fox and Richie Ashburn collected more hits than Miñoso’s 1,861 in that span, while only Ashburn and Mantle topped his 2,806 times on base.

Miñoso helped the White Sox to seven straight winning seasons from 1951-57, but despite winning as many as 94 games, the team could climb no higher than second place. In December 1957, he was traded back to Cleveland in a four-player deal that sent future Hall of Famer Early Wynn to Chicago. Taking over the mantle of staff ace, Wynn would win the 1959 AL Cy Young award while helping the “Go-Go Sox” — by this time owned by Veeck — to their first pennant since their infamous 1919 one, though they lost to the Dodgers in the World Series.

The Sox reacquired Miñoso as part of a seven-player deal in December 1959, with Veeck granting him an honorary AL championship ring for his role in helping return the club to prominence via the Wynn trade. Again the Cuban Comet made a splash in his first game with Chicago, hitting a pair of homers (including a grand slam) against the Kansas City A’s on Opening Day, thus setting off fireworks on Comiskey Park’s new $350,000 “exploding” scoreboard. Believed to be 37 years old at the time, Miñoso hit a fairly typical .311/.374/.481 with 20 homers, 17 steals and his final All-Star berth.

Miñoso’s performance slipped a bit the following season, and he was traded to the Cardinals in November 1961. Slated to join an outfield that included Curt Flood and Stan Musial, he was limited to 39 games and a meager .196/.271/.278 showing due to a pulled rib cage muscle, then fractures of his skull (again) and right wrist suffered when he crashed into a concrete wall in Busch Stadium. Cardinals trainer Doc Bauman told reporters, “His skull was cracked in five places. It was like hitting a coconut with a hammer.”⁠ A day after being activated, Miñoso was hit in the right eye by an errant warm-up throw.

Just after the season, the Cardinals traded for All-Star outfielder George Altman, making Miñoso expendable. The following spring he was sold to the Senators, who were bound for 106 losses, and struggled in a reserve role. He returned to the White Sox in 1964, but made just 38 plate appearances, mainly as a pinch-hitter, before drawing his release. Commissioner Ford Frick blocked Chicago’s attempt to restore him to the active roster in September, on the grounds that the team had violated the intent of the rules by sending Miñoso to the PCL and then repurchasing him six weeks later.

Still a drawing card in Latin America, and able to play baseball at a reasonably competitive level, Miñoso spent the 1965-74 period in the Mexican League and its minor leagues, generally serving as player/manager. When Veeck repurchased the White Sox in 1976, he hired Miñoso as a coach. Introducing some levity into their 97-loss season, the Sox activated him in September, and Miñoso went 1-for-8 in three games as a designated hitter. His September 12 single off the Angels’ Sid Monge led to a 1977 Topps baseball card celebrating him as the oldest player to hit safely, just short of his 54th birthday, breaking the record of 53-year-old Nick Altrock. That distinction was based on the 1922 birth date; using the ’25 date, he’s merely the fourth-oldest to get a hit. Miñoso remained as a coach through the 1978 season and reappeared for a cameo in ’80, Veeck’s final season of ownership. Though hitless in two pinch-hitting appearances, he joined Altrock as the majors’ only five-decade players.

Vincent quashed the White Sox attempt to reprise that role in 1990, claiming it would be “a publicity stunt that would hurt baseball’s integrity” for a 68-year-old player (as Miñoso was believed to be) to appear in a major league game, and thus not “in the best interests of baseball.” The St. Paul Saints, who as part of the independent Northern League did not answer to Vincent, signed Miñoso to make a cameo in June 1993. In late September that year, after the White Sox had clinched the AL West, acting commissioner Bud Selig and AL president Bobby Brown overturned Vincent’s ruling, clearing the way for another big league cameo, but the Major League Baseball Players Association immediately denounced the plan as “ridiculous,”⁠ so the idea was shelved. Miñoso did make one more appearance for the Saints in 2003, giving him professional appearances in seven decades.

On the surface, Miñoso’s traditional stats from his AL/NL days (1,963 hits, 186 homers, 205 steals) don’t cry out for enshrinement, nor do his WAR-based numbers. Including his totals from the NNL — which is now recognized as a major league — does push him past 2,000 hits, which is worth noting, though “The Rule of 2,000” applies to post-1960 expansion era players. No player with fewer than 2,000 hits whose career took place in that period has been elected, while numerous such players who missed time due to segregation or military service have been enshrined.

With the inclusion of Negro Leagues data within major league totals on Baseball Reference, I’ve made a preliminary decision to include the WAR data of players enshrined for their service in integrated leagues within the JAWS set. The impact upon the standards is very minor, as the gains of Doby (7.2 WAR), Campanella (6.0), Robinson (2.1) and Mays (0.0) are hardly drastic. Spread that out over 15 or 20 players at a given position and it’s almost imperceptible.

At this stage, I’ve tabled the usage of the WAR data within the JAWS set for players who spent their entire careers, or the bulk of them, in the Negro Leagues. While we now know more about the careers of Paige, Irvin, and Willard Brown, they played less than 10 years in the AL and/or NL and were elected for their time in the Negro Leagues. They still have comparatively minimal major league data by Hall standards (1,695 innings for Paige, 4,010 plate appearances for Irvin, 1,646 PA for Brown) due to shorter season lengths, and I have yet to settle on a satisfactory methodology for scaling within JAWS, which was not built with this situation in mind. To penalize these players for their short seasons, which were byproducts of the economic realities of segregated baseball — players needed to play an extensive amount of exhibition and barnstorming games to make ends meet, but statistics from those games aren’t considered official — makes no sense within the context of comparative analysis. Referring to Josh Gibson as the 28th-ranked catcher in JAWS on the basis of 38.6 career WAR and 26.9 peak WAR doesn’t do justice to a career that for the moment covers just 598 major league games and includes just three seasons of more than 50.

The upshot for Miñoso is that because he’s being considered for his time in the integrated leagues, I’m including his 3.5 WAR from the NNL, which pushes him from 25th among left fielders to 20th, 11.9 wins below the standard and ahead of just seven out of 20 non-Negro Leagues Hall of Famers (Jim O’Rourke, Joe Kelley, Ralph Kiner, Heinie Manush, Jim Rice, Lou Brock, and Chick Hafey). His peak WAR makes a stronger case, as he ranks 13th, 2.0 wins below the standard, but still ahead of 11 out of the 20 enshrined, including Joe Medwick, Willie Stargell, and Jesse Burkett. Miñoso’s 46.7 JAWS ranks 18th at the position, up from 22nd previously, and ahead of just seven Hall of Famers.

The big question is how much of Miñoso’s major-league career is missing due to circumstances beyond his control, namely baseball’s color line and his age when it was broken, given the uncertainty surrounding his birthdate. The 1922 date that was assumed to be correct during his career places him at 28 years old when he got his first shot at full-time play in 1951 (the same age as Robinson when he debuted), while the ’25 date would make him 25. Given his performances against PCL pitching (.297/.371/.483 in 1949, and .339/.405/.539 in ’50) it seems clear that Miñoso was deprived of at least two big league seasons, and he may have lost as many as five, given his star-caliber play in the NNL, though the 1946 game-by-game data uncovered by Seamheads (.227/.301/.376, 94 OPS+) is at odds with older data from The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues that says he hit .309 that year. Without getting too hung up on that, it’s worth remembering that Miñoso put up 5.1 WAR in in his first full AL season and 4.1 WAR in his seventh-best season within that aforementioned peak; it seems entirely plausible that he could have bettered that while increasing his total value had he arrived earlier.

Alas, the long coda to Miñoso’s major league career caused his Hall of Fame candidacy to slip through the cracks in a variety of ways, but not before one of the stranger clerical errors in the modern history of the voting. Though he had been out of the majors for just three years instead of the necessary five, Miñoso was mistakenly included on the 1968 ballot. For as forgettable as his 1963 and ’64 seasons may have been, they did count. Miñoso didn’t get any votes in ’68, but when he was listed again the following year, he received six stray votes.

Miñoso did not appear on the 1970 ballot, the one on which he would have made his debut under current rules. Because the Mexican League, in which he was playing at the time, was (and is) considered part of organized baseball, he was still considered an active player and under a rule in place at the time could not be placed on the ballot. That same rule, only in effect for a few years, delayed consideration of Hall of Famers Warren Spahn and Robin Roberts. At that point, Hall voters of any stripe had not yet begun to consider players on the basis of Negro League accomplishments; the Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues that elected Paige wasn’t established until 1971.

Miñoso’s 1976 and ’80 returns to the majors both reset his eligibility clock, so that he didn’t reappear on the writers’ ballot until ’86, more than two decades removed from his time as a regular. By that point, many if not most of the voters were far more familiar with his cameos than his brilliant prime, to say nothing of the conditions under which he broke in; whatever credit he was due as a pioneer dissipated. He never received more than 21.1% before his BBWAA eligibility finally lapsed after the 1999 ballot. The Veterans Committee, which radically expanded to include all living Hall of Famers, Spink and Frick Award winners (for writers and broadcasters) in 2001, gave Miñoso just 16 out of 81 votes in 2003, his first year of consideration. He fared even worse on the 2005, ’07 and ’09 ballots, none of which elected a single player whose major league career began after 1943.

Miñoso was also bypassed by the Special Committee on Negro Leagues Baseball, which in 2006 elected 17 players to the Hall from a panel of 39 finalists, following half a decade of extensive research into the history of the Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues Black baseball. Neither Miñoso nor Negro Leagues star and manager (and major league scout) Buck O’Neill, the only two candidates still alive at the time, were among the 17. As Burgos, who was a member of the committee, later wrote, voters could not consider Miñoso’s accomplishments in the major leagues in this context, a rule he termed “arcane.” He added:

The end result is that a player who ranks as one of the definitive stars of baseball’s integration era has repeatedly fallen short of election.

Enforcement of this rule has harmed Miñoso and fellow integration pioneer Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe, more than any other candidates from the “Golden Era” of baseball history. Both Miñoso and Newcombe performed three years (or more) in the Negro Leagues, and then waited several seasons in the minors, and not because they lacked big league skills. Rather, they were victims of the slow pace of integration in the majors. Moreover, they had the ironic misfortune of having signed with big league organizations (Cleveland and Brooklyn) that were aggressive in signing talent from the black baseball world… It is an injustice that should have been remedied by the suspension of this rule when it comes to those men who were integration pioneers.

Indeed, the Hall’s insistence upon pigeonholing its honorees worked against Miñoso, since candidates have been classified as Negro Leaguers or major leaguers, players or managers/executives. While Paige, Irvin, and Brown played in the majors, they didn’t have the requisite 10 years in the AL or NL to be considered in that context, so they were elected as Negro Leaguers. Robinson and Doby, on the other hand, did have at least 10 years, but while the former was elected at the first opportunity in 1962, the latter wasn’t elected until ’98, 51 years after he made history, 39 years after the end of his career and just five years before his death. Doby, who began playing in the Negro Leagues in 1942, five years before his MLB debut, had a comparable on-field impact to Miñoso:

Larry Doby and Minnie Miñoso
Player PA AVG/OBP/SLG OPS+ Field dWAR Career Peak JAWS
Doby 6905 .287/.388/.498 140 18 0.9 56.5 39.4 47.9
Miñoso 8223 .304/.388/.489 130 29 -5.4 53.8 39.7 46.7
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

The VC recognized Doby’s historical importance, albeit belatedly, while placing his short-career numbers in the context both of his peers (against whom he more than held his own) and the obstacles that he faced (which shortened his career). They ought to have been able to do the same for Miñoso, particularly in light of testimonials such as those of Cepeda, Cuban-born Hall of Famer Tony Perez, and more recent Cuban players such as the White Sox’s José Abreu and Alexei Ramirez, for whom Miñoso’s success in the majors set an example. “Without Minnie, without his courage to leave Cuba for the major leagues, without his willingness to accept taunts and slights, none of us would be major leaguers,” said Ramirez in 2015.

After the VC was overhauled in favor of the three era-based committees, Miñoso received nine out of 16 votes from the 2012 Golden Era Committee while Ron Santo was posthumously elected. On the 2015 ballot, Miñoso received eight out of 16 votes; nobody from among the 10 candidates was elected. At the press conference to announce the results, voter Steve Hirdt said the committee’s disappointment over the failure to elect anyone “is mitigated to some degree by the fact that there will be another day for the candidates,” a load of hogwash that not only stood as a bitter reminder of Santo’s fate, but foreshadowed Miñoso’s. “Don’t tell me that maybe I’ll get in after I pass away,” Miñoso said in his final interview. “I don’t want it to happen after I pass. I want it while I’m here, because I want to enjoy it.”⁠

Alas, Miñoso died on March 1, 2015, meaning that at best, the Hall of Fame will have to write another chapter in its cruel history of belatedly bestowing baseball immortality on all-too-mortal candidates. Given not only his statistical accomplishments but his cultural and historical importance, his omission stands out like a sore thumb. He belongs in Cooperstown alongside Robinson, Doby, Clemente, Banks and the other pioneers and icons who changed the face of baseball. The presence of four players who received more votes in 2015 on this ballot as well (Dick Allen, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, and Maury Wills) will make the competition for votes a fierce one. Miñoso shouldn’t take a back seat to any of them, for he’s that important to the story of baseball.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and Mastodon @jay_jaffe.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cave Dameron
1 year ago

The Hall of Fame’s most glaring omission is Buck O’Neil.