Sunday, July 24th will be a historic day for baseball fans and card collectors. Six new members of baseball’s Hall of Fame will be inducted on that day including Tony Oliva, Gil Hodges and David Ortiz.
We’ll explore each of those players, including their Hall of Fame credentials, path to the Hall of Fame, and of course, their rookie and other baseball cards.
Today we begin the series with Cuban-born former Negro League and Major League star Orestes “Minnie” Minoso.
A player becomes eligible for election into the Hall of Fame five years after their retirement. If a player had a 10 year career and is selected by the committee, they appear on the ballot to be voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).
A player appears on the ballot until elected by appearing on 75% of ballots, dropping off the ballot by appearing on less than 5% of ballots, or appearing on the ballot for 10 years (until recently, the maximum years on the ballot was 15).
Now, after a player drops off the ballot, induction into the Hall of Fame isn’t off the table. The Hall of Fame knows that with more time, some player’s careers can be re-examined and their Hall of Fame case becomes more convincing. The Hall has a series of committees that meet to examine these players and their hall of fame merits.
These committees consist of 16 members that meet in person and vote. Just like the BBWAA ballot, 75% or more of the vote is required for induction, in this case 12 out of 16 votes.
Minoso’s first full season in the majors was 1951, when at age 25 he hit .326/.422/.500, good for a 151 OPS+. With a league leading 14 triples and 31 stolen bases, he was a dynamic player that finished 2nd in the Rookie of the Year balloting and 4th in the MVP.
Over the next 14 seasons, he made 7 all-star teams, finished in the top 5 in the MVP race three more times. He won three gold gloves, led the league in triples four times and stolen bases three times. He hit .299/.389./.460 during that period, good for a 130 OPS+. He earned 50.5 WAR from 1951-1964. One small indication of the difficultly with racism that MInoso dealt with during his career is that he led the league in most hit by pitch TEN times.
If that was the entire story, MInoso would belong in the conversation for Hall of Fame consideration. But there’s more to the story.
Before signing with the Cleveland Indians after the 1948 season, MInoso played three years in the Negro Leagues. Being a dark-skinned Cuban-born player, Minoso was denied the chance to play in the majors until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. During his three years in the Negro Leagues, Minoso added an additional 3.5 WAR.
Minoso appeared in 9 games with the Indians in 1949, but the Indians were a strong team at that point, and he had little chance to break into the lineup. He spent 1949 and 1950 in the minors, putting up numbers that strongly suggest he was major league ready.
After 1964, Minoso hung up his spikes, or so it seemed. But in 1976 he joined the White Sox as a coach. Bill Veeck, the White Sox owner, orchestrated Minoso actually getting into three games for a total of eight at bats. He even managed at hit at 50 years old.
Four years later, in 1980, at age 54, he got 3 more plate appearances, these hitless. This made Minoso one of only three players to appear in major league games in 5 different decades.
All told, Minoso put up 53.8 career WAR. That is 20th all-time among left fielders. The average Hall of Fame left fielder had a career WAR of 65.2, although that number is slightly inflated by guys like Ted Williams (122.1) and Rickey Henderson (111.2). That being said, of the eight left fielders with a career WAR between Minoso and that 65.2 average, all but three are already in the hall.
So, Minoso was always a solid Hall of Fame candidate. He passed away in 2015 with the nickname “Mr. White Sox”, but without membership in the Hall of Fame.
Minoso appeared on the BBWAA ballot for 15 years, in 1969, when he dropped off the ballot with only 1.8% of the vote, and then (because he became an active player again in 1976 and 1980) from 1986 to 1999. He maxed out at 21.1% of the vote, well short of the 75% required.
In both 2011 and 2014, Minoso appeared on the Golden Era ballot. Both years he fell short, with 9 and 8 of the required 12 votes respectively.
Minnie Minoso was elected as part of the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame class via the Golden Days Era ballot. 14 of the 16 voters included him on their ballots, giving him 87.5% of the total (the minimum required for induction was 75%).
He will be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York during induction weekend on July 24, 2022. The MLB Network will be covering the festivities.
The Trading Card Database lists 297 cards for Minoso, with the majority of those released after his playing days were over.
His very first cardboard appearance was in the 1945-46 Caramelo Deportivo Cuban League set. Many Negro League players appear on Cuban or Mexican League cards, as they often played in those countries during the off-season. This card, as you can imagine, is rather hard to find and quite expensive when you do find it.
The one example I have found was listed on eBay – an autographed version with the card graded a PSA 1, but with a 10 graded autograph. It was listed for $9,999.
After appearing on a regional dairy set in 1950, he appeared in several 1952 sets, including the Bowman issue and the iconic 1952 Topps set. These 1952 cards are generally considered the best Minnie Minoso rookie cards.
The Bowman card sold recently in PSA 5 condition for around $500. Recent PSA 5 sales of the Topps card have been in the $800 range.
Many of Minoso’s early cards are from classic vintage sets of the 1950’s and 1960’s, so they have some value, and are also just really beautiful cards. Check out his 1953 Bowman or Topps, or the 1956 Topps to see what I mean.
If you’re a fan of certified autographs or game-used cards, Minoso had a number of them released in the 2000’s.
Here are a sampling of a few Minoso cards, including PSA population numbers and recent sales:
|Year/set||Total PSA Pop||Recent Sale Pop||Recent Sale Price|
|1952 Topps #195||1,063||PSA 4: 226||$600-625|
|1952 Bowman #5||678||PSA 4: 109||$375|
|1954 Red Heart||335||PSA 5: 32||$125|
|2001 Topps Archives Certified Autograph||14||RAW||$100-$125|
Minoso, who was born in Cuba, dealt with the pain of racism, and put up an amazing a career that led to be being a beloved figure to White Sox (and all) baseball fans. The recent inclusion of Negro League stats in major league stats brought attention to Minoso, and potentially put his Hall of Fame case over the hump for some.
Whatever your budget and collecting interests, there is a Minoso card that will enhance your collection.