As reported last November by the Negro League Baseball Players Association:
A five-member screening committee of Negro league baseball historians, appointed by the Hall of Fame's Board of Directors, has selected a slate of Negro leagues and pre-Negro leagues candidates for consideration for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Then on February 27, 2006 a special 12 member voting committee of historians will meet in Tampa to vote none, one, or more into the Hall of Fame. There are 39 candidates.
This special ballot is profound for two reasons. First it provides an opportunity for some great ballplayers to get fair consideration for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Secondly, the voting will be conducted by a dozen of the most knowledgeable men and women in regards to Negro League history.
While there were special elections in the past, and elections by the "Old Timers Committee," Negro League players, slighted during the height of their careers continue to be slighted after they ran their last base.
Election to the Hall of Fame will not be easy. Fortunately there is no artificial limit on the number of players that can enter the Hall of fame through this ballot. However, to make it to Cooperstown, the player must receive a three quarters vote, or nine of the twelve committee members. Considering the members have greatly differing areas of expertise, although some have co-written books together, most are academics with strong opinions, so nine votes could be very tough for any candidate to accumulate.
I have a special interest in the outcome, having railed for years about the injustice done to one player who should have been elected long ago.
His real name is Saturino Orestes Armas Minoso y Arrieta, born in Havana, Cuba, November 29, 1922.
Bill James considers Minnie Minoso the 85th best player in the history of the game:
Minoso didn't get to play in the majors until he was 28 years old, but had a better career after age 28 than almost any Hall of Fame left/right fielder. Minoso hit for power, drove in 100 runs like clockwork, was a Gold Glove outfielder and one of the best baserunners of his time. Had he gotten the chance to play in the Majors when he was 21 years old, I think he'd probably be rated among the top thirty players of all time.
Minoso was in between. He didn't play long enough in the Negro Leagues like Buck Leonard and Josh Gibson, and he did not get to the Majors early, like a 22 year-old Ernie Banks.
He was 21 in 1945 when he played his first fall season of Cuban Baseball with Maraino hitting .294. The next year was he hitting .309 for the New York Cubans. The following season, 1947, Minoso again led the New York Cubans as they captured the Negro National League pennant and easily defeated the Cleveland Buckeyes to win the Negro League World Series. In that Series, Minoso was the offensive star, batting over .400.
I first saw Minoso play against Boston at Comiskey Park in 1952, the second of three consecutive years that he led the American League in stolen bases with 22. By that time Minoso was a star by anyone's standards.
The closest I ever got to Minoso was in 1954. The Chicago White Sox stayed at the Piccadilly Hotel, just two blocks from my home. Once the season started, every day after school we headed to the Piccadilly about 3:30 pm. The White Sox would be returning from the day game by 4:00 pm. Every White Sox player stayed at the Piccadilly except for two. Jack Harshmann had his entire family with him and lived in an apartment about a mile away.
Minoso drove up to the hotel in his dark green Cadillac convertible; it was a '54 El Dorado. He dropped off the first of the great Venezuelan shortstops, Chico Carrasquel, and then headed further south. Word was that he lived somewhere near 63rd Street.
Minoso was black. He was the first black Cuban to play in the Major Leagues. He was the first black Latin player.
From 1954 until 1960, my last summer hanging around the hotel, I never saw a black, man or woman, ball player or not, go through the front doors of the Piccadilly Hotel. In places like Baltimore, or Boston, or in the deep south during spring training things were worse:
The Pyramid Hotel in Tampa is a quite modest upstairs establishment in a somewhat less than fashionable district. This was the spring training home of Minoso and his Negro teammates Bob Boyd, Connie Johnson, and Earl Battey. Sport Magazine, August, 1954, p91.
Rob Neyer says:
It’s fairly safe to assume, though, that if Minoso had grown up in Georgia with pale skin rather than in Cuba with dark skin, he’d have reached the major leagues three or four years before he did. Let’s be conservative, and give Minoso four more seasons. He was good for approximately 175 hits per season, and 175 times four is 700 hits. Add 700 to 1,963, and you get 2,663 hits.
There are, to be sure, players with more than 2,663 hits who aren’t in the Hall of Fame. But I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody with 2,663 hits and Minoso’s broad base of skills who hasn’t been elected or won’t be. Bill James rates Minoso as the 10th-greatest left fielder ever, and I think that’s just about right.
Some say Minoso was born in 1925. It doesn't make a bit of difference. It would have meant three fewer potential seasons in the majors. He didn't need the three years. Minoso languished for two years in the minors once Cleveland signed him in 1949. They didn't understand his style of baseball-speed, hustle, and potentially leading the majors with hit by pitches was not a white 'Yankee' thing.
In 1951 he played his first full season, and by all rights, should have been named Rookie of the Year. That cannot be fixed. The special committee can fix Minoso's long overdue induction into the Hall of Fame. This fall, Minoso saw something he always dreamed about and never thought would happen in his lifetime-the White Sox winning a World Championship.
This committee can make sure Minoso lives to see his induction into the Hall of Fame. He is a man of great talent and character, who while overlooked during his prime, was among the best.
Members of the committee and their areas of expertise are:
Todd Bolton, Latin America
Greg Bond, 19th Century (Here at the University of Wisconsin!)
Adrian Burgos, Latin America
Dick Clark, Negro leagues
Ray Doswell, overall knowledge
Leslie Heaphy, Women's History, Negro leagues
Larry Hogan, overall knowledge
Neil Lanctot, Negro leagues eastern teams
Larry Lester, Negro leagues
Sammy Miller, Eastern and Western teams
Jim Overmyer, Eastern teams and 19th century
Robert Peterson, overall knowledge