CHICAGO – When Minnie Minoso broke into major league baseball, the "Cuban Comet" was part of a wave of black players who changed the game forever. By the time he played in his final game 35 years ago, he was a beloved figure with the White Sox.
Minoso, who made his major league debut with Cleveland in 1949, hit .298 for his career with 186 homers and 1,023 RBI. It was one amazing ride for the seemingly ageless slugger, who died early Sunday morning after helping clear the way for generations of minority ballplayers, including a long list of stars from his home country, among them former Twin Tony Oliva.
"I know we're all going to go at some time, but I had gotten to the point where I really thought Minnie was going to live forever," White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. "There has never been a better ambassador for the game or for the White Sox than Minnie."
Minoso, who made his major league debut just two years after Jackie Robinson and turned into the game's first black Latino star, died of natural causes. There is some question about Minoso's age, but the medical examiner's office and the White Sox said he was 90.
"For Minnie, every day was a reason to smile, and he would want us all to remember him that way, smiling at a ballgame," Minoso's family said in a statement released by the team. "As he so often said, 'God bless you, my friends.'"
In 1993, Minoso made an appearance with the St. Paul Saints. He returned to the Saints in 2003 and drew a walk to become the only player to appear professionally in seven different decades.