Passion for Minnie Minoso runs deep

Minnie Minoso gave encouragement to young Sox players, including fellow Cuban Jose Abreu. David Banks/Getty Images

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Minnie Minoso figures to one day be elected into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, although the shame of it now is that he will not be alive to see the honor.

The Chicago White Sox legend passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 90.

Minoso batted .304 with 135 home runs and 808 RBIs over his 12 seasons with the White Sox. He played 12 of his 17 major league seasons with the club. He hit 186 home runs over his career with 205 stolen bases.

The latest opportunity to enshrine Minoso in Cooperstown came this past December, but he was not elected by the Golden Era Committee, which also overlooked former White Sox players Dick Allen and Billy Pierce.

Chairman Jerry Reindsorf was immediately at odds over the decision, especially in the case of Minoso and Pierce.

“I’m very disappointed Minnie and Billy didn’t get in because they clearly deserve to get in,” Reinsdorf said during the baseball winter meetings in San Diego. “I don’t know what player out of the era of the 50s and early 60s would be more deserving than Minnie. You look at the stats and the only people that did better than Minnie did in every category are already in the Hall of Fame.”

Minoso was a regular in the White Sox clubhouse over the years, ready to offer advice, especially to Latin-born players, and always armed with a quick wit. Last season, when Alejandro De Aza hit two home runs on Opening Day, Minoso greeted the outfielder the following day by calling him “Babe Ruth.”

Jose Abreu had formed a tight bond with Minoso last season as the two Cuba natives shared stories about life and baseball. Abreu took the news of Minoso’s passing hard Sunday and declined all interview requests.

Backup catcher Adrian Nieto, who also was born in Cuba, said conversations with Minoso were priceless.

“Very nice guy, very humble,” Nieto said. “He’ll go to everybody’s locker and say, ‘Hi,’ one by one. And he’ll ask how your family is doing, which says a lot about the person when they ask you about your family.

“I’ll never forget that he says when he’s up there in the stands, he lives that at-bat with us. If we got a hit he said it was like he got a hit. If we got out, it’s like he got out. Just to listen to him say things like that tells you what kind of person he really was.”

But you didn’t have to be from Cuba to have an appreciation for Minoso.

“He was around the clubhouse all the time when we were home,” John Danks said. “You could tell he followed us and wanted us to win as bad as we wanted to win. He had a heck of a career, he was a heck of a person and we’re just feeling for his family right now.”

Jeff Samardzija is only in his first season with the White Sox, but grew up a fan of the club and had the chance to talk to Minoso on occasion.

“It’s a tough loss, especially for the White Sox family, but moreso for the baseball family,” Samardzija said. “Minnie was one of those guys that came out and played it for the right reasons and loved the game. It’s just a shame.

“Hopefully when something like this happens you’re able to reflect on all the great things and all the great moments that people like (Minnie) gave you, and those memories, and then you enjoy them and apply them to your own life and hopefully you can learn something from them.”