Orestes Armas Minoso, known to all as "Minnie," truly was ageless in the minds of Bill Veeck and his son Mike, and we have proof.
When Minnie grounded out for Mike Veeck's Saints on June 30, 1993, at Midway Stadium to become the first professional ballplayer to appear in six decades, he was advertised as 70.
When Minnie drew a walk for Mike's Saints on July 16, 2003, still at Midway, to raise that record to seven decades, he was 77, and thus had aged seven years in a decade.
According to Baseball Reference, Minoso was born on Nov. 29, 1925, in Havana, so it would seem Veeck was nudging Minnie's age upward the first time, for dramatic effect.
Minnie first played for the Veecks when Bill was the owner of the Cleveland Indians in 1949, and last was in uniform for Mike (however briefly) 54 years later. And there's a chance the amazing marriage of Mike, St. Paul and an independent team with a pig as its mascot would not have taken place if organized baseball had shared the Veecks' reverence for Minoso's legacy.
Mike was president of the Miami Miracle, the only minor league team without big-league affiliation, in 1991. Home games were being played in Pompano Beach. He sent a contract to the "National Association" — the minor league office — for Minoso to play in a game.
"It was the whole sixth-decade thing," Veeck said. "We had four or five busloads there from Miami to see Minnie. The National Association turned down Minnie's contract; I'm sure with input from the commissioner's office. They said Minnie playing would make a 'travesty' of the game.
"That's one reason I was so receptive when Miles Wolff and Marv Goldklang started talking about independent baseball as a new option in the minor leagues. I thought we could try a few 'travesties' and see how they worked."
Goldklang's group targeted St. Paul for its franchise in a revived Northern League. Veeck spent much more time here than as president of the Miracle (relocated to Fort Myers as a Twins affiliate in 1992).
"We came up here in November 1991," Veeck said. "The Twins had won the World Series a couple of weeks earlier. The big problem for us was getting the word out we were coming to town. If I saw three people standing on a corner in St. Paul, I would get out and make a speech."
It's outdoor baseball, it will be fun, and "Fun Is Good." That was the sales pitch.
"We were able to get some publicity — 'Saints tickets go on sale for the first time Saturday' in 1993," Veeck said. "Libby and I got there early on a cold morning, and people were already lined up way down the street.
"Libby and I started making pots of coffee and served it to everyone. We saw those lines of happy people and said to each other, 'I think this might work.' "
Work it did, with every promotional ploy imaginable. For all the nonsense, no promotion topped signing Darryl Strawberry and having him on the field for 29 games in 1996.
Strawberry had been a New York hero with the Mets and had been with the Yankees in 1995 after serving a 60-day drug suspension. New York Post editors wanted him rescued from St. Paul for back cover headlines blaring, "Boss Stirred by Straw" (OK, snappier than that).
Tom Keegan was writing sports columns for the Post. His boss sent him to St. Paul with this charge: Don't let up until George Steinbrenner signs Darryl. Keegan got 'er done, Strawberry signed with the Yankees, and they won the World Series for the first time since 1978.
And Veeck proved, if you can get publicity in New York for your little independent ballclub on the prairie, you can get it anywhere.
Triumph was a 22-summer run at Midway Stadium, but nothing compared to Veeck convincing the city of St. Paul and the state of Minnesota to invest in a new ballpark in St. Paul's Lowertown.
First, the Saints had to get rid of the empty monolith, the Gillette Building, that sat on the proposed site. Then, they had to get politicians to approve the public paying most of the freight for a $60 million-plus ballpark.
"Would not have happened without friend of the Saints Julian Loscalzo," Veeck said. "I'm the world's worst politician. It's a family trait. Julian had been around the State Capitol since 'Save the Met.' He got me into the right offices."
Localzo said last week: "The politicians had heard so much bull in various stadium crusades. We went up there and Mike laid it out straight, the reasons this could work, and legislators appreciated that."
Veeck laughed over his cellphone and said: "The main thing I contributed was the quote that a Saints ballpark was a 'rounding error' for the Vikings' new palace."
The rounding error became CHS Field, opened in 2015 and admired even by the Twins and team President Dave St. Peter, from their lofty perch at magnificent Target Field.
On Wednesday, as baseball's new minor league affiliates were rolled out, they became official chums — the Pohlad family's Twins and the Goldklang Group's Saints as a Class AAA club.
Here was the young man behind "Disco Demolition Night" at Comiskey Park for his dad in 1979, a promoter organized baseball didn't want again sending Minnie Minoso to the plate, being romanced by the Twins and the commissioner's office.
How does Mike Veeck see this?
"I'm seeing my headstone," he said. "It reads, 'He Blew Up Disco and Lived to Blow Up the Gillette Building.' "
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