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In sports, particularly baseball, certain contributions to the game are easy to quantify. It’s a hit or it’s not. You score or you don’t. You catch or you miss. And if you do the latter too frequently you find yourself out of a job.
Other contributions, though less tangible – the kind recorded in history books, but perhaps not on scorecards -- should not be considered less vital. A single play may change the outcome of a game. A single player can change a sport.
Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso Arrieta, better known to most as Minnie Miñoso, was denied entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week. He was three votes short of the 12 needed from the Golden Era committee.
Miñoso was a career .298 hitter, racking 1,963 hits, with nearly a third of his hits (31 percent) going for extra bases. He scored 1,136 runs and drove in 1,023. He was a nine-time All Star, hit for over .300 in eight of his 17 major league seasons, and led the American League in stolen bases and triples three times.
Certainly, Miñoso would not have had a professional career that spanned five different decades had he not been a highly talented ballplayer (even if his major league appearances in the 1976 and 1980 seasons were more for the novelty factor). Whether his numbers alone make him truly worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown is something baseball fans and analysts will continue to debate.
From a purely statistical perspective, Miñoso isn’t among the top five or 10 to ever play the game. But with nearly 300 members in the Hall of Fame, 290 other enshrinees don’t meet that standard either. Allowing Miñoso entry to Cooperstown, even on numbers alone, wouldn’t lower the bar from a sabermetric standpoint.
The Cuban outfielder’s legacy is not simply built on his stolen bases and extra-base hits. As with many former Negro League players, judging them strictly on their MLB-era numbers is a disservice.
But the Cuban outfielder’s legacy is not simply built on his stolen bases and extra-base hits. As with many former Negro League players, judging them strictly on their MLB-era numbers is a disservice.
Unquestionably talented, Miñoso spent the early years of his career in the Negro Leagues, before making his major league debut in 1949. He had to wait another two years before being given a real opportunity to contribute on a big league diamond. By then, he was 28. (His year of birth was initially listed as 1925, but it is now widely believed to be 1922.)
In many ways, Miñoso’s numbers are a secondary part of the conversation when discussing his contributions to professional baseball.
He was not only the Chicago White Sox’s first black player, but was a trailblazer for Latino players, especially black Latinos, in Major League Baseball. Miñoso helped pave the way for numerous first-ballot Hall of Famers, both those who have been elected to Cooperstown in the years since his debut and the future generations of Latino players who continue to shape America’s pastime.
Miñoso was passed over by the Baseball Writers Association of America during the first 20 years of his retirement.
He was passed over in 2006 by the Committee on African-American Baseball, which selected 17 inductees, including 12 players, in recognition of their historic contributions to the game.
In an age where we’ve become used to the Hall of Fame debate centering around the Steroid Era, Miñoso truly represents the Golden Era. Yet, at 89 (or 86), the living legend has now been passed over again.
Still, Miñoso remains optimistic about his shot at Cooperstown, even if he’s resigned to “wait until next year.”
Maria Burns Ortiz is a freelance sports journalist, chair of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Sports Task Force, and a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. Follow her on Twitter: @BurnsOrtiz