Monday, April 5, 2010


In honor of the White Sox' season opener today at U.S. Cellular Field, we revisit one of the club's most memorable openers from the past, which took place an even 50 years ago.

     On April 19, 1960, one of the most beloved Chicago ballplayers of all time celebrated his homecoming at Comiskey Park. His name was Orestes "Minnie" Minoso, and he had rejoined the the White Sox after two years in exile with the Cleveland Indians.
     Minoso had made his White Sox debut nine years earlier, after being acquired from those same Indians. When he took the field on May 1, 1951, Minoso became the first black player to appear in a major-league game for a Chicago team. “I’m the first guy to bat,” Minoso recalled many years later. “First pitch comes right over the plate and I hit a home run to center field. The people who wanted to boo me didn’t get a chance. But later they got a chance. The bases were loaded and I was playing third base. A ball bounced off the bag and hit my ankle, then went through my legs. I was charged with an error, and two runs scored. My first game on the White Sox I was at the top and then sunk to the bottom. Same day, good and bad.”
     As time went on, there was a lot more good than bad. In his first seven years, Minoso hit over .300 five times, knocked in 100 or more runs three times, and led the league in stolen bases three times. Minoso's aggressive style ignited the Go-Go White Sox, and he became the most popular player on the South Side. But then he was traded to Cleveland, and he missed the pennant year of 1959.
     When Minoso returned to the White Sox in 1960, he received a hero's welcome from a then-record opening-day crowd of 41,661 at Comiskey Park. Also in attendance were the Kansas City Athletics; it was the first time in the Sox' 60-year history that they opened a season against a team other than the Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, or St. Louis Browns (when travel by train was the norm, the Midwestern clubs opened against one another, and the East Coast clubs did likewise).
     Minoso gave the throng its money's worth. A more eventful day would have been difficult to imagine.
     In the first inning, Minoso beat out a bunt for an apparent base hit but was called out for running outside the baseline; a lengthy rhubarb ensued. In the second, he hit a screaming liner and was robbed on a circus catch by Kansas City center fielder Bill Tuttle; he was credited with a sacrifice fly when Luis Aparicio scored on the play. In the fourth, Minoso hit a grand slam. In the fifth, he narrowly missed colliding with Aparicio as both men chased a pop fly; he dropped the ball for an error. In the seventh, he raced into the gap to spear a line drive that would have scored two runs. In the top of the ninth, with the score tied 9-9, he threw out a runner at the plate.
     The game was still tied when Minoso stepped into the batter's box to lead off the bottom of the ninth. He blasted a long home run into the left-center field bleachers, giving the Sox a 10-9 win.
     Minnie was back, as his two home runs, six runs batted in, two sensational defensive plays, and countless ovations from the crowd amply demonstrated. “I’m comfortable here,” he said after the game. “I was here before and I feel like this is my home.”
     And so it has remained for half a century more.

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