Orestes “Minnie” Minoso was the player Roberto Clemente wanted to be, said Hall of Famer, and former Brave, Orlando Cepeda.
“(He) was the Jackie Robinson for all Latinos; the first star who opened doors for all Latin American players,” said Puerto Rican native and future Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda. “He was everybody’s hero.”
Minoso died Saturday at age 90 (though many believe he was two years older). I remember him as the 54-year-old who received two at bats in 1980, one of Bill Veeck’s publicity stunts that some say hurt Minoso’s chances at getting in the Hall of Fame.
That would be a foolish reason to exclude a player as deserving as the Cuban-born Minoso, who fashioned a career .848 OPS, one that would’ve likely been higher had he not been excluded from the major leagues in his early 20s. Bill James ranked Minoso as the 10th best left fielder of all time, and there wasn’t a tool he didn’t possess, winning three Gold Gloves, stealing 20 or more bases four times and posting an OBP above .400 six times.
His best season, in 1954, was sublime: 29 doubles, 18 triples, 19 HR, 116 RBI, 18 SB, .320 BA, .411 OBP, .535 slugging. And he was consistent, finishing in the Top 5 in MVP voting four times.
The numbers should be enough to place Minoso in the HOF. His cultural significance, both as a Latin pioneer and the first black player for either Chicago team, should guarantee it.