Just four years after World War II ended and two years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Minnie Minoso made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians. Five decades and 1,963 hits later, at the age of 54, Minoso was standing at home plate of Comiskey Park in a White Sox uniform. 

His website lists him as the ninth black player in Major League Baseball, the first for the White Sox and the first publicly acknowledged Cuban major leaguer.

Only 12,817 fans saw his major league debut on April 19, 1949. Fewer than that were likely even aware. It was fitting that he drew a free pass in his only plate appearance, as he would go on to accumulate 192 free, painful hit-by-pitch passes. In fact, he led the league in being hit by a pitch in 10 of his 17 seasons.

Yet despite his contributions to the game of baseball, Minnie Minoso stands on the outside of the Hall of Fame looking in.

After once again failing to be elected to the Hall of Fame via the Veteran’s Committee, receiving only 8 of the 12 required votes, White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf admitted that Minoso‘s returns to the game at the ages of 51 and 55 hurt his chances of being inducted, as some voters didn’t get to see the real Minoso play.

Heck, take away his final 35 plate appearances and his batting averages raises an entire point to .299. Minoso‘s actual career batting average was an impressive .298—that’s tied with Mickey Mantle.

His .389 career on-base percentage ties him with Frank Robinson and puts him ahead of Tony Gwynn (.388), Willie Mays (.384), Hank Aaron (.374) and Willie McCovey (.374).

Minoso was a nine-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, yet the Gold Glove Award wasn’t even implemented until he was 35 years old. He received the honor at age 35, 37 and 38, though his actual age isn’t known for sure.

In 2009, Jim Rice was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on his 15th and final ballot. Like Minoso, Rice spent a majority of his time in left field; in fact, Minnie played a mere six games in left field more than Rice with 1509 and 1503 games, respectively. 

Although Rice’s fielding percentage was eight points higher than Minoso‘s, Minnie earned three Gold Gloves while Rice won zero. As mentioned earlier, the Gold Glove did not come along until Minoso was 35 years old; Rice had the opportunity to win one during his entire career.

Offensively, Minoso matches up quite comparably to Rice. Rice was certainly more of a power hitter, slugging 382 home runs in 16 seasons. Here’s a look at the offensive stats of the two:

Sure, Minoso isn’t often mentioned in the same sentence as players like Hank Aaron or Willie Mays, but his numbers in virtually any category can compete with those of quite a few Hall of Famers. He didn’t rewrite the record books, but he made tremendous contributions to the White Sox and the game itself.

A few years ago, Chicago baseball fans were heartbroken that one of their most beloved, Ron Santo, was inducted into the Hall of Fame just a year after his death. Like Minoso, Santo was not often compared to those individuals regarded as “the greatest,” but he certainly had a stellar career. Santo was one of the greatest Cubs ever to play. His number is retired by the Cubs, while a statue of him stands eternally outside of Wrigley Field. 

The same goes for White Sox legend Minnie Minoso, whose statue can be seen in the center field concourse and his number above the U.S. Cellular Field press box.

The Veteran’s Committee cannot let what happened to Santo happen to Minoso. It’s time that Minoso gets inducted into the Hall of Fame before it’s too late.

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