White Sox legend Minnie Minoso had 'a tremendous life'
More than most, Ron Kittle is going to miss White Sox legend Minnie Minoso.
"This is a guy who had a tremendous life, loving everybody," Kittle said. "I'm going to miss his hugs. I'm going to miss that ugly Cadillac with those streamers flying as he went to the ballpark."
Minoso always seemed to be at the ballpark, whether it was during his 12-year run as a White Sox player that spanned four decades or as a wildly popular team ambassador.
Minoso, the first black player in Sox history and a seven-time all-star, died Sunday at the age of 90.
A memorial for the "Cuban Comet" was held Friday at Holy Family Church in Chicago. A funeral service will be held at the same location Saturday.
"He's been here a long time," said Kittle, who played with the White Sox for eight seasons and was the 1983 American League Rookie of the Year. "He's just instrumental for the White Sox and White Sox history, period, and throughout the whole year people will come up with stories. And it's all genuine. They miss his hugs, they miss his effervescent smile that he just shares with everybody."
The Sox will wearing a patch with Minoso's No. 9 on their uniform sleeve this year, and there figures to be a tribute or two once the season starts.
"There is no question when you look at what he did on the field, he's a Hall of Fame player," said Brooks Boyer, the White Sox' director of sales and marketing. "But for us he's a Hall of Fame person. There is no better way to honor him than to do things at the ballpark in his memory. Hopefully it's one of those things where Minnie, watching down on our ballteam from heaven, will put us into where we want to be in October."
A left fielder and third baseman, Minoso played in 1,835 career games over 17 major-league seasons with Cleveland, the White Sox, St. Louis and Washington, batting .298 with 336 doubles, 83 triples, 186 home runs, 1,023 RBI, 1,136 runs scored and 205 stolen bases.
The Cuba native was named the 1951 American League Rookie of the Year, finished in the Top 5 in AL MVP voting four times and won three Gold Gloves.
As the Sox' ambassador, Minoso rarely missed a game at U.S. Cellular Field and was a regular in the Scout Lounge behind home plate.
"I looked forward to seeing him at the ballpark every day and I'm sure other people did, too," Kittle said. "I don't think he had a mean bone in his body. He had a great family and they are very appreciative of what the White Sox are doing. He's Mr. White Sox. You lose him, you lose Ernie Banks -- two people that meant so much to Chicago -- it's a tough year."
Christine O'Reilly, the Sox' director of community relations and executive director of White Sox Charities, had a long history with Minoso.
"When I came to the ballpark, and this was when I was a senior in high school, a girlfriend said, 'They're looking for somebody to work in the information booth at the old ballpark,' " O'Reilly said. "I pulled up and this distinguished guy in a suit, impeccably dressed, opened the door for me. It was Minnie. He welcomed me on my first day of work. I tell that story only because that's how he was. ...
"He opened his heart, he opened his life, he shared everything about himself with the fans. Who in this city does not have two autographs from Minnie, but wouldn't you get in line and wait for another one? Just the spirit that he exuded ... I don't think we'll ever find another ambassador of baseball, ambassador of the White Sox. They say no one is irreplaceable, but Minnie is irreplaceable."
• Follow Scot's White Sox and baseball reports on Twitter at @scotgregor.