By Eric Clark
Hall of Famer and former Cub Billy Williams remembered Minnie Minoso as a player who gave everything he had to his team, teammates and fans – even if he didn’t always get the respect he deserved.
“We all thought of him as the Jackie Robinson of Latin players,” Williams said.
Hundreds paid their respects and celebrated the life of “Mr. White Sox” at his funeral on Saturday at Holy Family Church, just five weeks after the death of Chicago Cubs icon Ernie Banks. While Banks became the first black player to play for the Cubs in 1953, Minoso was baseball’s first black Latino player and made his debut with the White Sox in 1951.
Minoso passed away March 1 at 90. Although overlooked by Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame, he is regarded as one of the greatest White Sox players of all-time. His No. 9 jersey was retired by the club in 1983.
— Jerry Reinsdorf
Williams said Minoso’s exclusion from the Hall of Fame shouldn’t diminish his legacy.
“Some great players haven’t made the Hall of Fame,” Williams said. “You talk about the writers and the people who vote, some of the people hadn’t seen Minnie play. A lot of things go into [being] a Hall of Fame player.”
Minoso amassed 1,963 hits, 186 home runs and was hit by a pitch on 192 occasions in his career, which ended in 1980.
Kenny Williams, executive vice president of the White Sox, said he wished Minoso could be alive to feel the glory of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“He deserves to be in there. He celebrated baseball,” Williams said. “He was one of baseball’s great ambassadors. It’s a shame that a man like this doesn’t get to see it or get to feel what it’s like.”
Minoso’s influence on the game of baseball and the White Sox is still being felt today. Cuban-born White Sox players Jose Abreu and Alexei Ramirez were unable to attend due to spring training obligations, but both released statements expressing their sorrow and condolences over the loss of a mentor.
“Minnie was like a second father to me, as well as many other Latin players in our clubhouse and across the game of baseball,” Ramirez said in a statement read aloud Saturday. “We will miss his knowledge, his insight, his passion for the game, his encouragement, and of course, his smile.”
Hall of Famer and former White Sox player Frank Thomas said Minoso’s historical impact on Chicago won’t be forgotten. What the White Sox family will miss the most, he said, is Minoso’s presence and optimism in the clubhouse.
“He played five decades, he was first man of color to play in this city,” Thomas said. “It was one of those things that Minnie did. But he loved people, and we’re going to remember him as loving people.”
White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said Minoso’s legacy goes beyond the excellence he provided the game for 17 seasons.
“His legacy is treat everyone with respect, be nice to everybody. And as a ballplayer, it was play hard,” Reinsdorf said. “The only other player I can remember that played with the enthusiasm Minnie had was Jackie Robinson.”
Minoso can’t be replaced within the White Sox family, Reinsdorf said.
“You don’t fill the void, you just go on,” Reinsdorf said. “You have the memories. Nobody can ever take away the memories.”