Glancing Back, and Remembering Minnie Minoso
Minnie Minoso was one of the most durable players in major league history, appearing for teams in five different decades (1940s-1980s). He lasted so long because he was an outstanding hitter and left fielder, batting .298 over a 17-year career and winning three Gold Gloves.
Minoso was already a proven hitter in his native Cuba and in the Negro League when he was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1948. He made his debut with the Tribe in 1949, appearing in nine games. After a season in AAA ball, he started the 1951 season with Cleveland and then was traded to the Chicago White Sox, the first player of color to join the White Sox. He hit .326 in his rookie season with 10 home runs and 76 RBIs. He led the American League in triples (14) and stolen bases (31).
Minoso’s first tour with the White Sox lasted seven seasons. He hit .300 or better in five of those seasons, and led the league in stolen bases in 1952 and 1953. He also led the league in triples in 1954 (a career-high 18) and 1956. In 1954, besides leading the league in triples, Minoso batted .320 with 19 home runs and 116 RBIs.
In 1957, Minoso batted .310 with 12 home runs and 103 RBIs, and led the league with 36 doubles. Following that season, he was traded by the White Sox to the Cleveland Indians for Al Smith and Early Wynn. He hit .302 for Cleveland in 1958 with 24 home runs and 80 RBIs, and followed up in 1959 by hitting .302 again with 21 home runs and 92 RBIs.
Then it was back to the White Sox, traded with Dick Brown, Don Ferrarese and Jake Striker for Norm Cash, Bubba Phillips and John Romano. He batted .311 in 1960 with 20 home runs and 105 RBIs, and also led the American League with 184 hits. He won his third Gold Glove that season, and finished fourth in the balloting for AL Most Valuable Player (won by Roger Maris).
In 1961, Minoso hit .280 for the White Sox and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for first baseman Joe Cunningham. Now 36, Minoso played in only 39 games for the Cardinals, batting .196. He was signed by the Washington Senators, batting .229 in 1963. He appeared in 30 games for the White Sox in 1964, and after his release played several years in Mexico.
Minoso made two more brief appearances with the White Sox, in 1976 and 1980, qualifying him for five decades of major league appearances. He played minor league ball in the 1990s and 2003, making him the only player to appear professionally in seven different decades.
In his prime, Minoso was one of the best and most consistent hitters in the American League. From 1951 through 1960, Minoso hit for a combined .307 and averaged 16 home runs and 90 RBIs per season. He finished his career with 1,963 hits, and was an All-Star seven times.