Minnie Minoso, the first black MLB player in Chicago and considered one of the greats in White Sox history, has died. The Chicago Tribune reports an autopsy showed Minoso suffered a tear in his pulmonary artery caused by “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” Per police and family, Minoso was on his way home early Sunday morning from a friend’s birthday party when he took ill. He was found unresponsive in the driver’s seat of his car with no signs of trauma.
“We have lost our dear friend and a great man. Many tears are falling,” White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement (Twitter links). “When you talk about the top players in the AL in the 1950s, you talk about Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Minnie Minoso.”
President Barack Obama, a noted White Sox fan, offered his condolences (Twitter link). “For South Siders and Sox fans all across the country, including me, Minnie Minoso is and will always will be “Mr. White Sox.” Minnie may have been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but for me and generations of black and Latino young people, Minnie’s quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever could.”
Minoso had failed to receive enough votes from the Golden Era Committee to be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame despite posting four top-5 American League MVP finishes, being a seven time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, the 1950 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up, and ending his 17-year career, which began in 1949 with the Indians and culminated in two at-bats with the White Sox in 1980 at the age of 54, with a line of .298/.389/.459. Minoso was a trailblazer, as he is considered the first Latin American superstar. Hall of Famer Orland Cepeda called Minoso “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 Minoso. (Roberto) Clemente wanted to be Minoso.”
Minoso, whose number 9 has been retired by the White Sox, teamed with Cubs legend Ernie Banks, who passed away himself in January, as one of the game’s top goodwill ambassadors, not just for the City of Chicago, but for all of baseball. “I’m proud of everything,” Minoso said of his career (as quoted in the Chicago Tribune article). “I’m proud to be a baseball player.”
Minoso is survived by his wife, Sharon, two sons, Orestes Jr. and Charlie, and two daughters, Marilyn and Cecilia. Funeral arrangements are pending.