Earl Ofari Hutchinson's take on the politics of the day
I was ten years old and lived on Greenwood Ave. near 63rd St. on Chicago's South side. I like many others on my block was an ardent Chicago White Sox follower. The one Soxer that I and the other kids adored was Minnie Minoso. I stayed glued to the radio listening to Sox games and hung on every one of his towering home runs, lightning fast base steals and near legendary on field exploits. We took special pride in him in part because of that and because he was one of the first to break the color bar on one of Chicago’s major league baseball teams in 1951 with the White Sox. And in part, because he was someone that was a rarity in those days in my neighborhood, he was a black Cuban.
That wasn't all. He lived part of the time at the all-black Hays hotel which was around the corner from my house. This was the one hotel that celebrated black athletes, entertainers and notables who came to Chicago stayed at then. In fact, it was one of the few hotels that they could stay at.
I and the other kids on the block made it a virtual ritual to crash the hotel, dash up the stairs to Minoso's room to gawk at him and try to get his autograph. Twice I hit the jackpot when I timidly knocked on his door and he opened it. I still remember the big, wide smile he flashed as he without any annoyance at my intrusion, and both times invited me in. He eagerly signed my patched up baseball and chatted in rapid fire mix of Spanish laced English that I had trouble following. But it didn't matter. I was in this great man's presence. That was all that counted for me.
The tributes from President Obama, Chicago officials and many legendary baseball greats about Minoso's towering achievements on his passing are much deserved. But Minnie will always have a special place in my memory and heart for his path breaking role in overcoming culture and racial barriers in baseball. But most importantly, for the special warmth and kindness he showed to me and the other kids in my neighborhood who loved and admired him for that warmth and kindness.