Minnie Minoso deserved to be in Cooperstown. Why did it take her so long?

At a baseball game early in her MLB career, Minnie Minoso homered off left-hander Hal Newhouser, a future Hall of Famer. Batting a couple of innings later, Minoso was hit by one of Newhouser’s fastballs on his butt.

The pitching broke Miñoso’s sunglasses that he kept in his back pocket.

“You n … you’re not supposed to hit a home run,” Newhouser yelled.

For baseball around 1950, Newhouser wasn’t the only one throwing balls that hit men like Miñoso, the game’s first black Cuban. White pitchers had him in their sights as their target shooting, just as they had aimed at Jackie Robinson when he broke the racial barrier on April 15, 1947.

“What can I say?” Minoso was quoted as saying of his fight with Newhouser. “I am black.”

Had Minoso not been, perhaps his electrifying career would have earned him a plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum long before Sunday, when the 16-person Golden Days Era Committee met in Orlando, Florida, and chose him, along with Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat and Gil Hodges to the Hall.

When Miñoso took to the field on April 19, 1949, with the Cleveland Indians, joining the most integrated baseball club in baseball, he followed the paths that Robinson and Larry Doby blazed into the big leagues. They all started their careers in the Negro Leagues.

Many historians and baseball fans thought that Robinson, Doby, and Minoso had careers worthy of Cooperstown, New York. Robinson (entered 1962) and Doby (entered 1998) arrived there years ago, but it took Miñoso, a gardener who didn’t speak English when he emigrated from Cuba in 1946, decades to join them.

“Without a doubt, the language issue hurt Minnie,” said Danny Torres, a writer who hosts a podcast saluting Roberto Clemente. “But I think the color of his skin hurts him too.”

In defending his exaltation, Torres emphasized the things Miñoso did well, which included playing a Gold Glove defense, using his speed to start scoring bouquets for the Chicago Indians and White Sox, and promoting the game off the field. of game.

His contributions there earned him the nickname “Mr. White Sox.”

As an ambassador for the game, Minoso was the only Negro Leagues player to rival Buck O’Neil, whom a different panel, the Early Baseball Era Committee, selected Sunday for the Hall along with Bud Fowler.

An amateur wanted an autograph, Minoso would sign it; the team needed a baseball player to spark interest in the baseball club, it went directly to Miñoso, who was one of the most visible personalities the sport had ever seen.

In a 2014 PBS profile, Miñoso described himself as a “baseball player for life” and said he was a baseball player who never shied away from his blackness. He tried to use his color to overcome the era of segregation and integration, and he succeeded, as much as the age allowed.

During his career in the majors, from the decades he spent playing baseball and then promoting it, Miñoso built a resume that was underrated. He produced numbers better than or equal to those of Yogi Berra, Bill Mazeroski and Nellie Fox, his contemporaries. Minoso didn’t meet them in Cooperstown until Sunday.

Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, believes his blackness was one of the reasons.

“The fact that Minnie was Afro-Cuban is very important so I felt like she should have been in the Hall of Fame,” said Kendrick, who knew Miñoso from his museum visits. “He did for Hispanic athletes exactly what Jackie had done for African Americans.”

Before dying on March 1, 2015, Miñoso expressed his disappointment at not having entered the Hall. He felt like he had earned his place alongside Robinson, Doby, Monte Irvin, Satchel Paige and all the other greats of the game.

“Come on, then I get a little mad,” Miñoso said on the PBS profile. “It was supposed to be there.”

Now he’s going to be there.

“I was overjoyed when I heard Minnie come in,” Kendrick said. “But I was saddened that he wasn’t here to celebrate with us.”

Justice B. Hill, an Ohio State University alumnus, is a longtime sports writer and editor who taught journalism at the Ohio University EW Scripps School of Journalism until May 2019. His works have appeared in MLB.com, SBNation.com, Ebony.com, and BET.com.