Minnie Minoso

•April 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Minnie Minoso ChiSox

When Minnie Minoso recently passed away at the age of 89, the city of Chicago and the world of baseball suffered yet another broken heart, much like in February when Ernie Banks died. Minnie Minoso has always been one of my favorite players from yesteryear. How can you not love a Cuban who played in the Negro Leagues, old Pacific Coast League, the Major Leagues and the Mexican League? He lived a long life in baseball and it was apparent that the man still loved the game very much as he was still quite involved with the White Sox.

If you’re not familiar with Minnie Minoso, a great starting point would be to watch the documentary “Baseball’s Been Very, Very Good to Me: Minnie Minoso Story.” It’s currently streaming for free, so you have no excuse to watch it. If you’re  familiar with the man that helped knocked down the barriers that stood in the way for both Latin and black players alike, I hope you appreciate this post which gives a snapshot into different eras of his long and storied career. Rest in peace, Minnie. May the world of baseball never forget you and hopefully you will get your spot in Cooperstown soon.

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Minoso Mariano Tigers

In 1945, Minnie Minoso made his professional debut with Havana’s Marianao Club of the Cuban League. The 19 year old was paid $150 a month while primarily playing third base for the team. Minoso, or the “Cuban Comet” as many called him, is a member of the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Minnie Minoso &  Lino Dinoso

At the age of only 20, Minnie Minoso left his country in 1946 and joined the New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues, where he proceeded to become a two time All-Star and helped the team win the Negro League World Series in 1947. Minoso played in the Negro Leagues until the Cleveland Indians signed him as an amateur free agent late in the 1948 season. He was immediately sent him to their single A affiliate team in Dayton, where he finished out the season.

In this photo, Minnie (right) poses for a photo with teammate Lino Donoso during his time with the New York Cubans.

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Minoso San Diego Padres Speech

After signing with the Indians late in 1948, Minoso proceeded to make his MLB debut during a quick cup of coffee in the big leagues early in the 1949 season. After spending 9 games with Cleveland, he spent the rest of 1949 and all of the 1950 season with the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League, where the team operated as an affiliate of the Indians from 1949 to 1951. Minoso flourished in San Diego, where he became a fan favorite and put up an accumulated .319 batting average, hit 42 home runs, drove in 190 RBI and stole 43 bases. Due to these numbers and the impact he had on the team, Minoso was elected to the PCL Padres Hall of Fame.

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Minoso LF Indians

During Minoso’s time in the Indians’ organization, he was converted from a third basemen to a left fielder and was soon recognized as one of the best defensive left fielders in the game. In what surely ended up being a move the team regretted, Minoso was traded to American League rival Chicago White Sox in April of 1951, when it became evident that Minoso did not have a spot on the team. As they often say, the rest was history.

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Minnie Minoso ST 1956 ChiSox

From 1951 onwards, Minoso was one of the best players in the Major Leagues. Minoso was an 9 time All-Star and earned himself 3 Gold Glove awards. With the exception of short stints with the Senators, Cardinals and even re-joining the Indians at one point, the rest of his Major League career was spent in Chicago. I can list more of his accomplishments in Chicago, but all you really need to know is that he eventually took on the name “Mr. White Sox” and made a significant impact on the organization, which eventually retired his #9 uniform number. Minoso’s playing career in the Major Leagues essentially ended after the 1964 season, but he was far from done playing the game he loved.

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Minnie Minoso Mexico

After Minnie’s MLB career ended, the Mexican League came calling and he spent the next 9 seasons there as a player and player-manager. Due to his accomplishments in Mexico, he was elected to the Mexican League Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.

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In 1976, Bill Veeck convinced Minoso to rejoin the team as a coach, which Minnie happily agreed to. In a September series against the Angels, the 50 year old Minoso was reactivated as a player and served as a pinch hitter and designated hitter. He hit a single against Sid Monge on September 12th and became the 4th oldest player in history to get a hit in a Major League game. I can watch this video over and over again and not get sick of it.

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Minnie Minoso & Jose Abreu

From his return to the White Sox in 1976 up until his death, Minoso was still very much involved with the White Sox in different capacities and was currently a community relations representative for the team. One of the more interesting aspects of his later years was his relationship his sparked with Cuban slugger Jose Abreu, whom he took under his wing last season and became a mentor to.

Abreu was quoted as saying that he cared about Minoso like a family member and that in regards to his death said “It’s something that’s very painful for all of the Cubans that are here and for the fans of the White Sox, the organization and everyone. It’s something that’s very difficult. He was an incredible person. I learned so much from him.” 

Feller. Williams. Bouton. Paige. NL All-Stars.

•February 9, 2015 • Leave a Comment

bob feller 1938

A 19 year old Bob Feller warms up prior to a game in 1938. It’s crazy to think that before Feller even entered the 1938 season, he already had over 200+ innings in parts of 2 seasons under his belt due to making his Major League career at 17 years old.

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Ted Williams Local San Diego Team

Taken on June 26, 1936, one day after signing with the Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres, Ted Williams poses for a photo while wearing a uniform of a local amateur team. Williams was only 17 at the time and had to wait until he finished the school year before officially joining the Padres and making his professional debut.

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Jim Bouton Braves

After being essentially blacklisted from Major League Baseball in 1970 for writing the infamous “Ball Four,” Jim Bouton finally made his return to the big leagues in 1978 with the Atlanta Braves. If you’ve never read “Ball Four,” do yourself a favor and read one of the greatest baseball books ever. If you’ve never heard of Bouton or his book, you’ve definitely heard of an invention that he helped invent and is well known for: Big League Chew bubblegum.

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Goose Tatum & Satch Harlem Stars 1962

Satchel Paige and Goose Tatum pose for a photo in 1962 during their time with the Harlem Stars, the baseball version of the Harlem Globetrotters. Satchel was 55 years year old at the time and while his playing days were quickly coming an end, he surely had some bullets left his ageless arm.

If the name Goose Tatum rings a bell, it should. Tatum was much more than a novelty act. He is credited with inventing the hook-shot and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame as he was a superstar with the Globetrotters for years. His athletic skills were not limited to just basketball as he also played baseball in the Negro Leagues with various teams such as the Birmingham Black Barons. He was no slouch either as he played in the 1947 Negro League All-Star game, where he went 2 for 4 at the plate.

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1949 All Star Game Group

Stan Musial, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson and Ralph Kiner pose together at an All-Star game in either the late 1940s or early 1950s. Don’t really know what to say about this, but what an amazing photo of these baseball heroes from yesteryear. Just thinking about seeing an All-Star game from this era is crazy and almost seems unreal.

“Let’s Play Two!” – A tribute to Ernie Banks.

•February 5, 2015 • 1 Comment

Banks Wrigley Field

When Ernie Banks died on January 23rd at the age of 83, baseball lost a hero, legend and a great ambassador for the game. Banks came up in the Negro Leagues, starting his professional career in 1950 with the Kansas City Monarchs and then signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1953, where he played until retiring in 1971. Even in retirement, Ernie Banks stayed close to the game, where he continued to stay affiliated with his beloved Cubs and the game of baseball.

The fact that Banks played in the Negro Leagues and spent his entire Major League career with one team makes him special and part of two special groups of professional ballplayers that are slowly disappearing as time passes by. This is sad on many levels. Ernie Banks loved baseball and his old saying of “It’s a great day for a ballgame, let’s play two!” will forever be repeated by those who love the game. I know it’s something that I’ll never stop quoting. This is for you, Mr. Cub. You were a good one.

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Ernie Banks Shortstop

There’s nothing really significant about this photo, but it may be my favorite on-field photo I’ve come across of Ernie Banks. The baggy old school jersey, the concentration on his face, the vintage ads on the wall behind him – it’s perfect.

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Ernie Banks Monarchs

A young Ernie Banks during his time with the Kansas City Monarchs. Not many photos of Banks from this era exist and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an action photo of him actually playing for the Monarchs, which is disappointing. Even though he played in the Negro Leagues during the post-segregation era of baseball, when much of the talent left for Major Leagues, it still would have been great to see Banks play for the Monarchs. Especially while managed by the legendary Buck O’Neil.

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Pete Rose & Ernie Banks

In 1961, Banks moved to first base from shortstop due to issues with an injured knee. It’s kinda odd because I, along with most people, generally think of him as a shortstop due to coming up at the position but he actually spent the entire second half of his career at first base. In any case, I love this color photo of Mr. Cub holding Pete Rose on at first base. Gotta love those stirrups…

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Banks Opening Day

“The riches of the game are in the thrills, not the money.” – Ernie Banks

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Ron Santo & Ernie Banks

I may not be a religious man and I have my doubts of an afterlife, but if one exists, I guarantee that Ron Santo and Ernie Banks are playing baseball together again in Chicago Cubs uniforms.

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Ernie Banks & Jackie Robinson

I can’t put into words how much I love this photo of these two former Negro Leaguers turned National League heroes in action. Ernie Banks and Jackie Robinson playing against each other are what baseball dreams are made of.

A Tribute to Those We’ve Lost in 2014.

•January 20, 2015 • 1 Comment

Regularly updating 90 Feet of Perfection often took a backseat to other things such as my professional life and actually playing baseball in 2014. With that said, I’ve always paid tributes to those from the baseball world who have passed, but with the exceptions of my tributes to Jerry Coleman and Tony Gwynn, I was not able to keep this up this in 2014. I feel there’s no better time to pay tribute to those we’ve lost the year than now, and by doing so, I start by sharing a quote from the book “Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul,” which I feel is quite applicable to this post.

“Baseball is not life and death. But in life and in death, we remember the game, and we remember those who shared the game with us.”

Tony Gwynn & Jerry Coleman

2001-DSC_0012 (CH)

As mentioned above, the only memorial posts I did in 2014 were in honor of two of my personal baseball heroes in Tony Gwynn and Jerry Coleman. I’d rather not spend more time on their deaths as the posts (Coleman’s & Gwynn’s) were quite in depth, but to reiterate, I grew up with these legends and I’ll always associate my love of the game with both of them. It still bothers me that they passed away and as a fan of the San Diego Padres, I think it’s safe to say that it was one of the worst years in organizational history.

Don Zimmer

Don Zimmer Brooklyn Dodgers

Don Zimmer literally spent his entire adult life in baseball. In 1949, he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers at the age of 18 years old, spent parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues, 1 year in Japan and spent the rest of his life in coaching, managerial and front office positions with various teams. When he died in June at the age of 83, he was still working with the Tampa Bay Rays and still quite involved with the game of baseball. My favorite thing about Zimmer is how’d he proudly proclaim that he “Never drew a paycheck outside of baseball.” He was a lifer and will be missed.

Ralph Kiner

Ralph Kiner Pittsburgh Pirates

When Ralph Kiner passed away back in February, it made me think of Jerry Coleman. Jerry died the month before and was from the same era of baseball. In addition to this, both men made impacts via the broadcast booth with teams other than who they were associated with during their playing careers. Kiner will be remembered as both a Pirate and a Met and fan bases of both teams, along with the world of baseball heavily mourned the day the 91 year old Hall of Famer passed away.

Unrelated to his passing, what I often think of in regards to Kiner is his early retirement from playing the game. Due to a back injury, he was forced into early retirement at the age of 32 after only 10 years in the big leagues. During his shortened career, he hit 369 home runs and accumulated almost 1500 hits. If he managed to play another 5 or 10 years while being somewhat healthy and productive, I think it’s safe to say that he would be known as one of the greatest power hitters in baseball history. With that said, when Kiner did hang up his spikes, he was 6th on the all-time home run list.

Bob Welch

Bob Welch Oakland A's

The death of Bob Welch was a shock to many and much like Tony Gwynn, who would pass away one week later, he also left this world much too young. Anytime I think of the name “Bob Welch,” I think of the 1990 season, his 27 wins, his forkball and his Cy Young Award. I loved that era of Oakland A’s baseball as it had a big impact on me during my early years as a fan of the game. Bob Welch will forever have a place in the heart of A’s and Dodgers fans and for me, he was one of my favorite pitchers from my childhood.

Frank Torre

Frank Torre Braves

Frank Torre may just be known as Joe Torre’s brother to many, but the guy had some solid years in the big leagues as a first baseman for both the Milwaukee Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. I’m fascinated with brothers in baseball, especially when the baseball gods provide the opportunity for them to become teammates. The Torre brothers played together with the Braves for a period of time in 1960 and I assume that had to be one of their high points in their professional baseball careers.

Frank’s health problems were well documented as he famously had a heart transplant in 1996 while his brother was managing the Yankees in the World Series; so his death may not have been a surprise to many to due to this and his advanced age. Still, it sent a ripple through the baseball world, especially in the city of Milwaukee and with the Braves organization.

Jim Fregosi

Jim Fregosi Phillies Manager

When Jim Fregosi died in February, the baseball world lost a man who lived and breathed baseball. He was a player who spent 18 years in the big leagues, was a manager for 15 years and worked in the front office of various other teams after his managerial days were over. Even though he was 71 at the time of his death (which caught me off guard as I thought he was a bit younger), I always assumed we’d see Fregosi pop back up as a Manager again. Unfortunately, this was not in the cards.

Like many people my age, I associate Fregosi with the Phillies due to him being the Manager of the 1993 World Series team. He pulled off that Phillies red & white so well and he LOOKED like a Manager is “supposed” to look like- grizzled and a bit on the angry size.

Connie Marrero

Connie Marreero Washington Senators

Connie Marrero died in April at the age of 102 and at the time of his death, he was the oldest living former Major League baseball player. Marrero was a Cuban junk ball pitcher who didn’t make his Major League debut until the age of 39. He played all 5 years of his career with the Washington Senators, where he was an All-Star in 1951. As someone who is fascinated with Cuban baseball of yesteryear, I’ve always loved reading about Marrero and his accomplishments on the field in Cuba, where he was well-known star. Quickly reading over Marrero’s SABR or wiki pages gives a glimpse into his interesting, and I would say amazing life in baseball.

Oscar Taveras

Oscar Taveras HR

When Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic back in October, it shook the baseball world to its core. A young man with potential for an incredibly bright future lost his life, and he demonstrated this potential with unforgettable home runs in both his professional debut and in Game 2 of the NLCS. I feel the pain of the Cardinals organization and fanbase as I remember when the Padres lost Mike Darr back in 2001. The one thing I’m always going to remember about Taveras is that wild follow-through swing of his, especially when connecting with a home run. I’d say it was it was a thing of beauty and it’s unfortunate that we will not get to experience it again.

The 5 Most Memorable Games I’ve Attended.

•December 5, 2014 • 2 Comments

For some time now, I’ve been trying to decide on the five most memorable professional baseball games I’ve attended. I live in Giants and A’s territory here in the Bay Area and I’ve gone to countless Padres games over the years, so I feel that I have a good variety of games to pick from. I’m sure as the years go by, some of these picks will be transitioned out of my top five, but I’ll certainly never forget these games as they’ve made an impact on me. So without further waiting, here are my top five games I’ve been to, in no particular order.

 

Atlanta Braves vs. Richmond Braves (1985/1986?)

Richmond Braves Logo2

This is a a game I remember very little of due to the fact that I was incredibly young; I’m thinking I was probably no older than six years old. Still, what makes this memorable to me is that it was the first baseball game I remember attending. I lived in Richmond, Virginia for a number of years during my childhood and at that time the Braves AAA affiliate was the Richmond Braves and they played at a park called The Diamond, which featured a HUGE fiberglass sculpture of a Native American outside of the park named “Connecticut.” This surely would not fly today as it would be deemed racist, but as a kid I thought it was creepy, intimidating and cool all at the same time.

I seem to remember it being late in spring training and that the big league team came to town to play an exhibition game against Richmond. I have no recollection of who won the game or even who played for the teams at the time, but I do remember being fascinated by the size of the stadium, the bright green grass and having a great time with my Dad and brother. It was my first introduction to the game of baseball and it’s a memory that I’ll cherish for life. Too bad I can’t figure out much about the game.

 

Oakland A’s vs. Texas Rangers in 2012 (“Game 162″)


October 3rd, 2012 is a day that I’ll never forget. Besides the fact that it was my birthday, I rolled out to the Oakland Coliseum with friends to see the A’s battle the Rangers for the division on the last day of the season. It was a warm and sunny day, which is very typical for the Bay Area in October and there was so much electricity in the air due to the fact that Oakland could potentially lock up a division championship for the first time in over half a decade. In a nutshell, it was a perfect day for baseball.

By the third inning, the Rangers were up 5-1 and the normally loud and ecstatic Oakland crowd were now quiet with thoughts now shifting to winning the wildcard game to get into the ALDS. This all changed in the 4th inning when Oakland put up 6 runs, with 2 coming in after Josh Hamilton dropped a ball in centerfield. I’ll remember that moment forever as it seemed so unreal. After that, momentum shifted in Oakland’s favor and they easily won the game with a final score of 12-5. I got to admit, as someone who’s a big fan of the A’s, that was one hell of a birthday.

 

Padres vs. Rockies in 1993 (Tony Gwynn’s 2000th hit)


Anyone that knows me or reads this blog is well aware that my baseball hero is Tony Gwynn. I absolutely worshipped the guy and followed his career as close as humanly possible for the majority of my childhood. With that said, my family left San Diego while I was young and we spent minimal time there after that, usually for random trips during the holidays and summertime. In 1993 I ended up spending a summer in San Diego and I finally got to see Tony Gwynn play in person.

On August 6th, the Padres played the Rockies in a doubleheader and Tony started the day 4 hits away from reaching the career hit 2000. For most players, you can’t count on them getting 4 hits in a doubleheader, but with Tony Gwynn it was pretty much assumed due to his unbelievable hitting ability and the fact that he said he was going to do it. In game 1, he reached base 5 times with 3 hits and 2 walks, which left him at 1999 hits. When game 2 started and 1 hit away from reaching 2000, and those in attendance were ready to see their hometown hero reach the hitting milestone. The inevitable happened in the 6th inning when Tony hit a ball right up the middle against Bruce Ruffin and Jack Murphy Stadium went crazy. By the crowd’s response and the game delay that took place, you’d think it was hit number 3000. This reflects just how much the people of San Diego adored Tony Gwynn. Oh yeah, in typical Gwynn fashion, he was not finished as he knocked in yet another hit after that.

A fun fact about this night is that Tony hit number 3000 exactly 6 years to the day after this, which also happens to be his Mother’s birthday.

 

San Rafael Pacifics vs. Maui Na Koa Ikaika in 2012 (Bill Lee game)

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is one of my baseball heroes. He may be the complete opposite of someone like Tony Gwynn, but I’ve always loved the guy for his unorthodox approach to the game (and life), what he accomplished on the baseball diamond during his major league career and what he continues to accomplish well into his 60’s. He’s a modern day Satchel Paige and I draw inspiration from him in the sense that I’d love to continue to play baseball into my senior years as well.

When I heard that the Spaceman was going to pitch for the San Rafael Pacifics, a Bay Area minor league independent baseball team in the North American League, I knew I HAD to be there. The day of the game, a few teammates and myself made the 45 minute drive to Albert Park, the home of the Pacifics to watch what turned out to be one hell of a spectacle. There was a buzz in the air and the game was over capacity with ESPN, MLB, The National Baseball Hall of Fame and various other media outlets present to witness the hometown hero attempt to break the record as the oldest man to win a professional baseball game.

What Lee proceeded to do that night still amazes me as he pitched a complete game victory at the age of 65 against guys in their 20’s and 30’s. This is in addition to going 1 for 4 while knocking in the first run of the game for the Pacifics. I filmed the final out (video above) and I’d say it’s worth watching just to see him drop to his knees and kiss the grass while walking off the field.

 

A’s vs. Tigers in 2013 (Game 2 of ALDS)

After going to Game 1 of the ALDS the night before and seeing Max Scherzer and the Tigers narrowly beating my A’s to a final score of 3-2, my expectations were low for Game 2 as Oakland were set to once again battle their postseason nemesis in Justin Verlander. What ended up taking place was an absolute pitchers duel for the ages between Verlander and rookie sensation Sonny Gray.

After the scoreless game was handed to the bullpens, the stand-off continued into the 9th inning. This changed when perennial underdog and my favorite current player in MLB, Stephen Vogt came through with a game-winning RBI single against Detroit reliever Rick Porcello. The Coliseum exploded and Vogt won the hearts of A’s fans for eternity. I remember waking up the next day and my ears were ringing due to how loud the past two nights were. Unfortunately for A’s fans, they eventually lost the series against Detroit in 5 games for second straight year. In retrospect, Game 2 was somewhat bittersweet due to losing the series, but I’ll always remember it due to how unbelievable it was.

 
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