View Full Version : Totally Biased Book Review: Just Call Me Minnie: My Six Decades in Baseball

Baby Fisk
09-21-2004, 08:21 AM
Just Call Me Minnie: My Six Decades in Baseball - by Minnie Minoso with Herb Fagan (1994, 205 pp.)

Saturnino Orestes Minoso was born in 1925 into a rural Cuban household without electricity or even a radio, unknown to the world outside his village. Eight decades later, his likeness has been enshrined in a stadium in a giant metropolis in the United States, a tribute to the superstar he had become, a symbol of the American Dream cast in bronze.

Now that Minnie Minoso's smiling statue has been unveiled at U.S. Cellular Field, Sox fans everywhere should get ahold of his 1994 autobiography and learn more about this man's incredible life. Minoso's memoir is told with the boisterous enthusiasm of a man with a child's heart. It's the endearing story of a man who loves the game of baseball and appreciates what life in America has given him. This book is part-memoir, part-love letter to the United States.

Orlando Cepeda has said that "Minnie Minoso is to Latin ballplayers what Jackie Robinson is to black ballplayers. He was the first Latin American baseball player to become what in today's language is known as a superstar." Not only a superstar, but an inspiration. As a boy, Minoso worked the sugar fields of Cuba. He grew up to play professional ball in Havana, putting his hands and body to use on the diamond while chasing his dream of playing in America.

The teenaged Minoso's skills were noted by baseball scouts from America, and in 1945 he was signed to the New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues for $300 a month. To a wide-eyed 20-year-old who could barely speak English, this seemed like a dream come true, but it was just the start of a career that would span seven decades, a feat no other man has accomplished.

Three-and-a-half years in the Negro leagues and one Jackie Robinson later, the major league scouts came a looking. The Cleveland Indians purchased Minoso's contract in 1948. He debuted as a major leaguer for the Tribe in 1949, but spent the next couple of seasons in the minor leagues.

This was where Minoso the man took shape. For the first time, Minoso found himself the only black man on a team of whites. He faced barriers of colour, language and culture. He recounts a particularly humiliating moment in the minors that he converted into personal triumph:

"I recall that one time on the road, the bus unloaded at the hotel; I believe it was in Waukegan, Illinois. The bellhop saw me sitting in the bus and mentioned to someone how nice it was that the team had a black batboy. One of my teammates set him straight and said I was not the batboy. Rather, I was the best player on the club, and that he should go to the ballpark and see for himself. He attended the game, and I obliged him by going four for four."

The beauty of Minoso is that he refused to let racism beat him down. Minoso overcame innumerable slights and slurs as a black player in the forties and fifties, a time when he and other coloured teammates would be booked into hotels with the notation "Negro" by their names. Ignoramus catcalls from the stands fuelled his drive to succeed, just in time to be traded to the Chicago White Sox in the spring of 1951.

Bam! What a debut: in his first at bat in a Sox uniform, Minoso introduced himself to the South Side faithful by crushing a 415-foot homer off Yankee pitcher Vic Raschi. The love affair has burned ever since.

The record speaks for itself:

1951 Sporting News Rookie of the Year
.298 lifetime batting average
3-time stolen bases leader
Gold Glove winner
a clubhouse leader who left a positive impact on his teammates
Not only that, but the man had style:

"Buying clothes became a special fancy for me. I had so little in the way of clothes as a boy that now I wanted to compensate. I bought only the sharpest and most stylish outfits. Sometimes I'd change outfits two or three times a day. I looked like a man about town, and in certain ways I guess I was."

"To someday own a Cadillac convertible had been a long-standing dream of mine; now I had enough money to buy one. You may ask, why only convertibles? Why not! I liked them. I loved the way they looked, and I loved putting the top down. I was partial to the color pink. My pink Cadillac convertible became my personal trademark."

Bling Bling!

After a second turn with the Indians (sadly, in 1959, when the Sox finally made it to the World Series without him), another with the Sox, and seasons with St. Louis and Washington, Minoso returned to the South Side and played out a final season until injury ended his pro career in 1964.

Minoso writes of some rough years during the ensuing period of his life. He watched his homeland of Cuba ruined by Communist oppression. His personal life was darkened by marital breakup and long separations from his children. He lost his closest family members back home.

When his life seemed at its lowest, Minoso was reborn as a White Sox when Bill Veeck returned as team owner in 1975 and brought him back to Chicago. As a coach, P.R. man and sometime player, Minoso rejoined his "American" family on the South Side and rightfully earned the title Mr. White Sox.

And so he has remained. And now, that smiling face will be with Sox fans forever... on the South Side where it belongs.

Viva Minoso!

Viva White Sox!


Lip Man 1
09-21-2004, 12:39 PM
Minnie was given by Bill Veeck after the 1959 season an honorary American League Champion ring like the one given to the 59 Sox players.

The man should be in the Hall Of Fame along with Billy Pierce.


Baby Fisk
09-21-2004, 01:09 PM
Minnie was given by Bill Veeck after the 1959 season an honorary American League Champion ring like the one given to the 59 Sox players.

The man should be in the Hall Of Fame along with Billy Pierce.

LipThat's awesome. Minoso loved Veeck. Here's another quote from the book:

I have never stopped appreciating what he [Veeck] did for me; how much he always stood in my corner. He brought me back to the White Sox in 1960 and gave me the best contract I ever had, far more money than I ever made before.

What made Bill Veeck so extraordinary was his identification with ordinary people. Translated to the arena of baseball, this meant the ordinary fan. He had a built-in disdain for all forms of pomposity and pretense. For this reason, and because he was a consummate showman, he often outraged other owners. If he was controversial, he always had the best interest of the fan in mind. He never called me Minnie; always to him I was Orestes. Even when I was on a different team, he would pass me in the park and say, "How are you, Mr. Minoso?" or "How are you, Orestes?"

Bill Veeck is someone I have never forgotten; and I never will as long as there is a breath of life in me.