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Archbishop Listecki


Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
 

 

On Sunday, Orestes "Minnie" Miñoso died at the age of 92*. I know that many will be unfamiliar with Minnie Minoso. However, for me, he was an iconic figure who played baseball for the Chicago White Sox. How important was Minnie to me? Well, I have desired to be a priest for as long as I can remember. Some family members will say that I expressed that intention at the age of three. The most important event in my life was my first holy Communion. What do you think I wanted for a gift for my first holy Communion – a bible, a rosary or perhaps even a cross? No. My one request was an autographed baseball signed by my favorite White Sox player, Minnie Minoso. My Uncle Syl happened to be a Chicago police officer and his friend was assigned to the dugout at Comiskey Park. On the day of my first holy Communion, I received my autographed baseball. It made the day even more special for me.

As a ballplayer, Minnie was special; he played the game with a joy that kept him forever young. His passion for the game kept him interested and involved years after the best of his physical ability left him. Although that was a good number of years, Minnie was the only ballplayer to play in five decades of the sport. It would have been six decades but Sox management refused to activate him towards the end of a dismal season. Management said they were worried about Minnie being looked upon as a sideshow. But, I knew they were embarrassed because Minnie, at age 60, could out-hit and out-hustle much of the current club.

In Chicago, kids played one sport: baseball. You played hardball in little league at the Park and, in the prairies and sandlots, you played 16-inch softball. Ask Mr. Patrick Murphy about the 16-inch softball game he holds for charity every year here in Milwaukee. It’s unique to Chicago and sometimes referred to as Windy City Ball. Baseball was not just one of many sports: baseball was THE sport.

Minnie destroyed the racial barrier. He was the first player of color to become a Chicago White Sox. In an era of strong segregation, Minnie was admired and esteemed by many. Here I was, a white kid from the south side of Chicago and a devoted Minnie Minoso fan. My parents and family couldn’t have been more supportive. That is, with the exception of the Cubs fans.

I was fortunate early on here in Milwaukee to share with a kindred spirit my love of the early White Sox players with Mr. Jim Haines, the father of Rev. Jeff Haines. He followed the White Sox in his early years and even had a particular affection for Chico Carrasquel, a famous Chicago shortstop, who replaced the great Luke Appling. Mr. Haines even had a nickname “Chico.” Hearing of my affection for the great Minnie Minoso, Mr. and Mrs. Haines gave me a Christmas gift of a pennant of the New York Cubans, Minnie’s team, before the sport dropped the color barrier. I also received from the Haines’ a tribute plaque to Minnie and this year, I received a picture of the number 9 and Minnie Minoso fielding a baseball.

In 2005, when the White Sox not only won the American League pennant but also the World Series, during any of the games you could find the great Minnie Minoso not in the VIP box or special reserved seats, but in the right field grandstand. Sharing the joy of the sport with the fans that he loved and the fans who loved him, they were brought together by the game they loved.

Goodbye, Minnie. Thank you for bringing so much joy to my early years and giving me the great example to play the game with your whole heart, soul and mind. In the end, it’s all about love. As Jesus commands, LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

*Minoso's birthdate is widely-reported as November 29, 1925. However, a epynomous website, www.minoso.com lists his birthdate as November 29, 1922.

Note: This blog originally appeared as the March 3, 2015 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.

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