Minnie Minoso, the first black Latino player in the majors, died on Sunday.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Minoso died shortly after leaving a friend’s birthday party Saturday night. He was found unresponsive in the driver’s seat of his car. Experiencing chest pains, Minoso reportedly pulled over, suffering a tear in his pulmonary artery caused by “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
He was found unconscious around 1 a.m. and pronounced dead a few minutes after.
A native of Cuba, the player came to the United States in 1945 and played in the Negro Leagues for three seasons before making his major league debut in 1949. He became Chicago’s first black player on May 1, 1951. Minoso’s .298 batting average and .389 on-base percentage during his time with the White Sox earned him on the Top 10 list as the best left fielder of all time in 2001. He also helped lead the team to a comeback of sorts in the 1950s. After retiring in the early ’80s, he served as a goodwill ambassador for the team.
While reports are conflicted on his age, his friend and former teammate Billy Pierce says the mystery was also a running joke to them. His family says Minoso was 90, while his baseball records declare he was born in 1925, making him 92-years-old.
When asked about his age, he once said, “Look what they say in the Sox record book.”
“That’s the number we have down in Spanish documents. That’s the date,” Pierce said. “It’s kind of a running joke. That was the one topic he didn’t want to focus on, so of course that’s what everyone wanted to know.”
Known for his kind heart and warm personality, Minoso was remembered by President Obama, who called him “Mr. White Sox.”
“For South Siders and Sox fans all across the country, including me, Minnie Minoso is and will always be ‘Mr. White Sox.’ … Minnie may have been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but for me and for generations of black and Latino young people, Minnie’s quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever could.”
His son Charlie Rice-Minoso and Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts called the player extraordinary and friendly. He is survived by his wife of 30 years, his sons Orestes Jr. and Charlie, and his two daughters, Marilyn and Cecilia.