Chicago has enough problems this winter with the icy-cold air, snow-covered streets and the Democrats fighting among themselves. But the biggest blow had to be the death of Mr. Cub followed by the death of Mr. White Sox within six weeks.
I was saddened by the death of Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub. I saw him play many times at Wrigley Field on the Chicago north side. I admired him, but not his weak, sad team.
I was brain-washed as a child. My grandfather endured the pain of the 1919 Black Sox scandal and continued rooting for them til the day he died. My father carried on the legacy and I joined the club. Every summer in the ‘50s we would take Hwy.41 through northwest Indiana to Comiskey Park on the south side of Chicago to see the Sox. We liked to go once a month in June, July and before school started in late August. Every year was going to be the year the Sox beat the Yankees for the American League Pennant. They always finished second.
In 1951, the White Sox acquired Saturnino Orestes Armas Minoso Arrieta in a trade with the Indians. He was the first black player ever to play for the Sox. He used the given name of Orestes Minoso, but he was always knows as Minnie. Minnie Minoso taught me how to play the game of baseball. He was my hero. He, and my father, also taught me about the word prejudice. The word racism wasn’t used then.
We had a big, tall Philco radio in the living room. Throughout the summers we listened to many White Sox games broadcasted by Bob Elson. My dad read the Chicago Tribune afternoon edition when he got home from work. The sports section talked about this first black Cuban to play in the major leagues. And now we had him on our team.
His first time at bat was against the dreaded Yankees. On the very first pitch at his first at-bat as a new Sox player, he hit a giant home run (415 feet). That night he became Mr. White Sox. We couldn’t wait to see him play in person.
On a day in June, 1951, Dad drove my best buddy and me to Comiskey Park to see Minnie Minoso and our White Sox. Few things can rival the sights, sounds and smells of walking into a Major League ball park. The first sensual stimulation happens in the vast dimly lit cement corridors leading to the arched openings to the ball field. That sense stimulation is the smells of hot dogs, mustard, cigars and cigarettes (this was the ’50s, folks…everybody smoked or wished they did). Then the nose breathes in the grass, almost a nose adrenalin rush.
COMISKEY PARK IN THE ’50s
Then one’s ears are blasted with the reverberating “cracks” off the bats of players taking hitting practice. Mixed in are the loud shouts of “Beer Here, Beer here, Red Hots, Cracker Jacks, Ice Cream, and whatever else was being vended in the stands. By now one’s eyes have taken it all in. This mammoth architectural beast bringing this simple little game to 47,000 fans. The same field the Chicago Cardinals won the NFL Championship just four years before -1947, and Joe Louis knocked out James Braddock ten years before that -1937. Here we were, 1951, coming to see the team that Minnie Minoso alone would cause the team to be nick-named the “Go-Go-Sox.”
We were lucky to get some seats in the upper deck along the first base line. Minnie had brought excitement to a boring, bad team. Sitting a few rows behind us was a large black lady I’ll never forget. She had a voice that sounded like a foghorn combined with a rotary saw. It made my ears bleed. But, she was hilarious. Like everyone else in the seats, she loved Minnie. He was in his third month with the team and already leading the American League in many categories. His speed on the bases was electrifying in those days and if he got on base he would usually end up at third.
Every time Minnie was involved in a play, the foghorn lady behind would shout, “Way to go, Peaches. Youz my Peaches. That’s my Peaches.” My buddy and I were cracking up. Finally Minnie Minoso came to bat. Every pitch she would yell, “Come on, Peaches, letem’ hit ya. Just get on base, Peaches. Bring it on home to Momma.”
When my buddy, Johnnie, and I talked baseball over the next decade Minnie was always “Peaches” to us, too.
I mentioned the word, prejudice. My dad taught me what that meant at the end of that 1951 first season of Minnie (Peaches) and the White Sox. All boys who loved baseball collected Tops Baseball Cards. I don’t know what ever happened to mine. My buddy, Johnnie, sold his a few years back for around $20K. I never gave a thought to the future…still don’t.
We studied those baseball cards and memorized every statistic of our favorite players. We knew averages, home runs and stolen bases like we knew our multiplication tables.
As the awards and accolades for players were handed out at the close of the ’51 season, my Dad showed me the stats for the American League Rookie of the Year, Gil McDougal of the dreaded Yankees. Let me show those to you:
1951 Games Played McDougal 131 Minoso 146
Hits McDougal 123 Minoso 173
Doubles McDougal 23 Minoso 34
Triples McDougal 4 Minoso 14
Home Runs McDougal 14 Minoso 10
Runs Batted In McDougal 63 Minoso 76
Stolen Bases McDougal 14 Minoso 31
Walks McDougal 56 Minoso 72
Strike Outs McDougal 54 Minoso 42
Batting Average McDougal 306 Minoso 326
In words I’ll never forget, Dad said, “Son, that’s prejudice.”
The fact that Minnie Peaches Minoso is NOT in the Hall of Fame is another story for another day. It’s not prejudice, it’s just stupid.
Also, most obit reports will show that Minnie Minoso was born in 1925 and he was a few months short of his 90th birthday. Minnie was told he needed to be younger to get into the Major Leagues so he added three years to his actual birth date of 1922. Just sayin’.