Since 1951, there has been a White Sox Cuban connection. That was the year that Orestes “Minnie” Minoso made his debut with the White Sox. He became the first person of color to play for the South Siders. Over his career, he became a fan favorite, and to this day, a hero to many Sox fans. His number 9 was retired by the White Sox in 1983, an honor reserved for very few.
Minnie Minoso was more than just the first player of color to play for the Sox. He has an outstanding with the Sox and three other teams. He was a seven-time All-Star and won three Gold Gloves as an outfielder. He also collected over 1,000 RBIs during his career. To this day, many fans are clamoring for Minnie to be enshrined in Cooperstown. While that will be debated long into the future, these words of Orlando Cepeda cannot: “Minnie Minoso is to Latin ballplayers what Jackie Robinson is to black ballplayers. Minnie is the one who made it possible for all us [sic] Latins. He was the first Latin player to become a superstar.” Strong words, but fitting.
White Sox Cuban Connection: The Legacy Grows
Minnie Minoso began a connection between the White Sox and the Cuban population that has only grown over the years. The White Sox Cuban connection was a key part of the team winning its first World Series in 88 years in 2005. Jose Contreras was the number one starter during the post-season, and Orlando Hernandez (El Duque) came up huge in the clutch at Fenway Park.
In 2008, the White Sox Cuban connection was continued as shortstop Alexei Ramirez debuted with the club. Ramirez finished second in Rookie Of The Year voting that season, hitting .290 with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs. His contributions helped the White Sox make the playoffs. He won two Silver Slugger awards and made the AL All-Star team in 2014. He was a solid link in the White Sox Cuban Connection.
In 2010, Dayan Viciedo made his debut with the White Sox. Nicknamed “The Tank” for his massive build, Viciedo showed great promise on the South Side. However, after hitting .308 and slugging .519 in his rookie season, he never came close to duplicating those numbers. After the 2014 season, his once-promising MLB career came to an end. Yet, The Tank was a continuing link in the White Sox Cuban connection.
White Sox Cuban Connection: The Present
The career of Ramirez overlapped with the man who is now the leader of the White Sox. In October of 2013, the White Sox signed Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu to a six-year contract. He made his MLB debut on the South Side on March 31st, 2014. Abreu played his first six years with teams that were mediocre at best, and poor at worst After the 2019 season, Abreu became a free-agent with a decision to make. He chose to re-sign with the White Sox, signing a three deal. How did that deal work out? Abreu hit .317, with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs. He won the AL MVP award, Silver Slugger, and Hank Aaron award, as the White Sox made the playoffs.
Abreu was not the only Cuban-born to contribute to the White Sox in 2020. Yoan Moncada, acquired in the Chris Sale trade as part of a total rebuild, was the starting third baseman. While Moncada was hampered all season with nagging injuries and residual effects of Covid-19, he contributed some big hits and solid fielding to the Sox playoff run. The White Sox are expecting big things from Moncada going forward.
The 2020 season also saw the MLB debut of much-heralded rookie Luis Robert. The Sox signed him in 2017 and patiently waited for him to develop. Their patience paid off, as he had a solid season. Robert won a Gold Glove in center field and finished second in the Rookie Of The Year voting. All this in spite of his having to fight off several injuries. He appears to have a virtually unlimited ceiling.
The final piece of the White Sox Cuban connection arrived when they signed catcher Yazmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal in November of 2019. The Cuban-born Grandal brought veteran leadership and knowledge of the game to the South Side. His presence helped solidify the Sox’s catching corps. While he did not hit for a high average, he did contribute several big hits down the stretch and in the playoffs.
White Sox Cuban Connection: The Future
If current rumblings are true, the White Sox are not finished acquiring talented Cuban-born players. The international signing period for MLB begins on January 15th. The White Sox have been connected with several Cuban players. These include Oscar Colas, who some call the “Cuban Ohtani.” He is being sought by many teams and would be a real prize. They are also looking at 16-year-old outfielder Luis Pino and outfielder Yoelquie Cespedes. Cespedes is the top international prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The Sox have already agreed to a deal with 20-year-old pitcher Norge Vera. The deal should become official on January 15th.
White Sox Cuban Connection: The Wrap
The White Sox finished the 2020 season with a 35-25 record and made the postseason. They did it with the help of Cuban players like Abreu, Moncada, Robert, and Grandal. They are optimistic about adding more Cuban-born talent and becoming a serious contender in the AL for years to come. Their long history with Cuban-born players can only help them in their quest. Jose Abreu is a hero in his homeland, and that can be a big drawing card.
If the Sox are successful in adding Colas, and Vera, or Cespedes or Pino, they will continue to build on the legacy began by Minnie Minoso. The White Sox Cuban connection just might help them win a World Series or two, and they will have good old #9 to thank. Now that’s a legacy.
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