The Twins played the Philadelphia Phillies in the Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Aug. 8, 1977. The game took place at Doubleday Field, after the induction ceremony was held in front of the National Baseball Museum.
I was there as part of a road trip with the Twins, and wandered down Main Street to see Ernie Banks, "Mr. Cub,'' being newly minted as a Hall of Famer.
The inductees also included Pop Lloyd and Martin Dihigo, the eighth and ninth players inducted as stars from the Negro Leagues, with Satchel Paige having been the first in 1971.
That was the same year Dihigo died at 64. It was in his introduction that day I learned Dihigo was the first Cuban-born player to enter the Hall of Fame.
Tony Oliva was there as a Twins coach. I reminded Tony of that day during a phone conversation on Tuesday.
"Yes, it was an exciting day for Cuban baseball,'' Oliva said. "He was Minnie's hero.''
That would be Orestes Minoso, nicknamed "Minnie'' only after coming to the United States — 13 years older than Oliva, and thus a baseball hero for Tony as he grew up in Cuba.
And now it will occur on July 23, 2022, this completion of a circle of Cuban baseball greatness:
The late Minoso, devoted admirer of Dihigo, will be immortalized with a plaque in Cooperstown, as will Minnie's admirer, Oliva, 83, and joy-filled, to say the least.
"The winter league in Havana was our major league in Cuba,'' Oliva said. "When we could, way out in the country, we would listen on a radio. Minnie would play every winter, and he was everything in Cuban baseball.''
Oliva and Minoso will be the fifth and sixth Cuban-born players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Only Tony Perez preceded them based on feats in the American and National leagues. Dihigo, Jose Mendez and Cristobal Torriente earned their inductions in the Negro Leagues.
Minoso first came to the U.S. in 1946 to play for the New York Cubans in the Negro National League. Bill Veeck owned the Cleveland Indians. He had signed Larry Doby as the American League's first Black player.
Doby debuted on July 5, 1947, three months after Jackie Robinson did so for Brooklyn. Veeck also signed Paige in 1948, and Minoso early in 1949. As a Black Cuban, he encountered much of the same bigotry as Black U.S. players.
Minoso spent two seasons tearing up Class AAA in San Diego. Veeck couldn't wait to get Minnie in the lineup, except Bill's first wife filed for divorce, and he had to sell the Indians to settle in 1950.
"Orestes was my father's favorite player, without a doubt,'' said Mike Veeck, our local legend as the founder (1993) and president (still) of the St. Paul Saints. "And that carried over to a couple more generations of Veecks.''
The new Cleveland ownership kept Minoso for only eight games in 1950, then traded him to the White Sox. He was on the South Side for the next seven seasons.
Combining dynamic play and a dynamic personality, emphasized with a gorgeous green Cadillac with "Minoso'' as a license plate, he became the most popular White Sox player of that era, or perhaps ever.
"You know those bars on the South Side … they weren't too big on, ah, diversity,'' Veeck said. "Legend has it, Orestes would walk in, and all those large white guys would say, 'Who the heck …'
"And then they'd see and all shout: 'Minnie!' "
Minoso had four All-Star appearances with the White Sox, then was traded back to Cleveland before the 1958 season. Veeck bought a controlling interest in the White Sox in 1959 and the "Go-Go Sox'' went to the World Series.
Then, Veeck brought back Minoso to the White Sox for the 1960 season. "My dad figured Minnie was the guy that put the Go-Go in the Sox originally, so he gave him a World Series ring even though he'd been in Cleveland,'' Mike Veeck said.
Minnie's big-league career was over in 1964, except Bill (owning the White Sox for a second time) brought him back for three games and eight at-bats in 1976; then, did so again with two at-bats in 1980.
That allowed Minoso to reach five different decades as professional ballplayer. And the apple did not fall far from the Veeck baseball tree. Mike brought Minnie to St. Paul for an at-bat with the Saints in 1993 and another at-bat in 2003.
"Minnie played in seven decades,'' Veeck said. "Can you believe it?''
With Veecks around, yes.
Minoso died in 2015. He is sure to get a heart-felt remembrance from Oliva as part of Tony's Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
"Minnie was a showman in every instance,'' Mike Veeck said. "At my dad's funeral, the service was about to start and here came Minnie down the middle of the aisle, fully decked out in a 1976 White Sox uniform.''
That absurd uniform with the shorts? "Of course,'' said Veeck, master showman, in tribute to a Hall of Fame showman.