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Minoso thrived in Negro Leagues
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01/31/2003 5:17 pm ET 
Minoso thrived in Negro Leagues
Opportunity in U.S. came with the New York Cubans
 

Minnie Minoso helped lead the New York Cubans to the Negro Leagues championship in 1947 and 1948. (AP Photo)
Minnie Minoso never played baseball for the money. If that had been his motivation, he may never have come to the United States. He played because he truly loved the game. And he wanted to play in the Negro Leagues because he desired to play against the best competition he could.

Once he came to the U.S., Minoso proved to be one of the best once again, helping lead the New York Cubans to the Negro Leagues championship in 1947 and 1948.

CHICAGO -- After playing in Havana, my ambition was to play in the United States.

One day after a game, Alejandro Pascal, who used to sign a lot of big-league players, took me to a hotel in his big Cadillac. He wanted me to play for him in Mexico, but I wanted to go to the United States. He opened up his bag and I had never seen so much money in my life. Money was never my ambition. To me, money's not everything. I wanted to go to the United States.

    Minnie Minoso   /   OF
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 175
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Career stats
White Sox site
etopps
He said he'd put $30,000 in the bank if I would play for him. I would have been paid $15 a day for food, too. But, I said no.

To come to the United States I had to sign up for the Cuban army. But since I wasn't 18 years old yet, I did whatever it took. I said, "I don't care how many years you put on me, I want to go to the United States." (The army never called me so) I didn't serve any time in the army.

I don't know how to explain the satisfaction I had when I made the decision to come to the United States from Cuba. Joe Fernandez, who had been one of my managers in Cuba, was now the manager of the New York Cubans. Alejandro Pompez, a big-time businessman was the owner. There were 12 Cubans and 12 Americans on the team. I earned $600-650 dollars for six months and $5 a day for food. I could have made $30,000 in four months in Mexico!

The first Spring Training I had with the Cubans was in New Orleans. I took a plane from Cuba to Miami and then a train from Miami to New Orleans. We trained there for a month before going to New York.

The Cubans played in Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds. We used to be the home team in both stadiums. I'll never forget looking at the retired Nos. 3 and 4, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. We had uniforms exactly like the New York Giants and Yankees. We used to be the best-dressed team in the whole league.

The competition (in the Negro Leagues) was very good. Semi-pro in Cuba used to be like the Negro Leagues because you had prospects and older, retired players. We used to have pretty good crowds. I once played in front of 55,000 -- a record for the Negro Leagues -- at an All-Star game in Chicago.

Adjusting to life in the United States wasn't difficult because you keep busy, traveling. You see so many people. New York had every kind of nationality, so sometimes you feel like you're at home.


The competition (in the Negro Leagues) was very good. Semi-pro in Cuba used to be like the Negro Leagues because you had prospects and older, retired players. We used to have pretty good crowds. I once played in front of 55,000 -- a record for the Negro Leagues -- at an All-Star game in Chicago.

While we were traveling on the bus, we slept a lot and played cards, blackjack. Some places where players could not get out (of the bus), they would send me in to get food because I was Cuban. I would take it back out on the bus for everyone. Finally, I told them if I was going to be the one going in and taking the chance of getting killed while they sit on the bus, they would have to pay for my lunch. We had a good time. They were tough, but good times. We enjoyed it.

You hear players now say they're tired and need rest. We never had that.

Minoso, whose Major League career spanned 17 seasons and five decades, is one of 26 people nominated for induction into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. Leading up to the committee's announcement on Feb. 26, Minoso and MLB.com will present a weekly series, offering a unique perspective on his life, from his childhood in Cuba to the Negro Leagues and, finally, the Major Leagues.

Despite his official birthdate of November 29, 1922, Minoso was actually born on that date three years later in 1925, making him 77 years old. He still lives on Chicago's South Side, near Comiskey Park, where he immediately endeared himself to all White Sox fans with his heart and determination on the field.

Minnie Minoso's first-person account appears as told to Damon P. Young, an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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