Minnie Miñoso was a pioneer among Latino players

Editor’s Note: This note was originally published in April 2017

Without Jackie Robinson there might not have been a Roberto Clemente or a David Ortiz in the Major Leagues. Without Jackie Robinson … and without Minnie Minoso.

Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso Arrieta, born in the Cuban town of Perico, was the first black Latino player to play in the majors, two years after Robinson broke the racial barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

He made his debut in 1949 with the Cleveland Indians, the first team to have a black player in the American League, when on July 5, 1947 they placed Larry Doby in their center field, almost three months after Robinson’s debut in the American League. National.

In reality, Miñoso had few opportunities with the Indians, who kept him a year later in the Minors and transferred him in 1951 to the Chicago White Sox, where the Cuban would begin to write his most glorious pages.

Until then, the White Sox had not ventured to have any dark-skinned players in their ranks, neither American nor foreign, but Miñoso burst in with the force of a category five hurricane, to become a fan favorite in The city of winds.

Inexplicably, he was second in the young circuit’s Rookie of the Year vote, which was won by Gil McDougald of the New York Yankees, despite the fact that “El Cometa Cubano” surpassed him in average, hits, runs scored, RBIs, home runs, etc. stolen tickets and bases.

That same year he was one of the first two Latinos to participate in the All-Star Game, along with the Venezuelan Chico Carrasquel, his partner in the White Sox. It would be the first of seven appearances in the main game.

He averaged above .300 in eight seasons and dropped his .298 lifetime average. He surpassed 100 RBIs four times and amassed 1,023 in his career, which spanned five decades from 1949 to 1980, when he made his final appearances at 54 years of age.

But despite the fact that blacks could now play in the majors, his career was not without vexations, having to eat alone many times because in some cities that the team visited, people of color were prohibited from entering certain restaurants, just to cite one example.

He was the last Negro Leagues star to play in the majors, because at the time of his goodbye, it had been a long time since Robinson, Satchel Paige, Doby and others, who were his teammates before the racial barrier fell, had put an end to it. to their careers.

He has unfairly not been inducted into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, despite his impact on and off the field, beyond his remarkable stats.

Eventually you will, but you will no longer be able to enjoy it in life.

On March 1, 2015, he was found dead at the wheel of his car on a Chicago street corner. He was 89 years old.

The funny thing is that his compatriot Silvio García, another who shone in the Negro Leagues, has never played in the Majors, despite having been the first option the Dodgers thought of, over Jackie Robinson, to break the ban. racial.

The story goes that in one of the regular trips of Major League teams to Cuba, the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Leo Durocher, was so impressed with the talent of the Antillean that he recommended him to the club’s board, which was already in search of a black star to break the racial barrier.

According to Durocher, Garcia was a superior player to the St. Louis Cardinals’ Marty Marion, considered the best shortstop in the majors at the time.

It was then that the general manager of Brooklyn, Branch Rickey, subjected the Cuban to a momentous interview, to find out what Garcia’s reaction would be to a possible racist provocation by a white rival.

The Cuban almost threatened to start World War III and Rickey automatically disqualified him, laying his eyes on a more educated Robinson, who did understand the historical magnitude of what they were proposing to him.

This is how history was written.