Minnie Minoso documentary worth watching, remembering

Jonathan Daniel

"Baseball's Been Very, Very Good To Me: The Minnie Minoso Story" makes an emotional appeal for the Cuban star's Cooperstown case, and baseball immortality.

An important programming note for White Sox fans: Tom Weinberg's Kickstarter-funded documentary on Minnie Minoso, "Baseball's Been Very, Very Good To Me: The Minnie Minoso Story," airs tonight on WTTW-Ch. 11 at 10 p.m. If you somehow missed it, these links will get you caught up:

I watched a streaming preview last week, and it's very effective at telling the personal side of Minoso's story -- his upbringing, his perspective on his role as a pioneer for black Latino ballplayers, and his unique relationship with Cuba (Fidel Castro doesn't see him as a friend of the revolution, but Castro would allow him to visit because he's that important to the culture).

To use an old line, my only complaint is that it isn't long enough. There's so much to say about Minoso, who made a visible impact on 1950s baseball, in Chicago and elsewhere, beyond the color of his skin. As a Minoso fan, I would have liked to see a little more elaboration (and anecdotes from peers) about his style, playing and personal. Minoso makes the case for himself in the documentary, emphatically asserting that nobody hustled more than him, but I would have liked to hear more from the guys who shared the field with this force.

For instance, Weinberg uses some great footage of Minoso digging around second and sliding into third, beating a throw. The third baseman turns his back to home plate to argue with the umpire, and Minoso gets up and takes off for home. Granted, he's thrown out by 15 feet and there's no point in sliding, but it's a good example of the way the 1950s baseball world described Minoso's play.

You might remember some of the clippings I shared about Minoso, with opponents noting that his all-out baserunning and opposite-field power were two things baseball hadn't seen often. I'm reminded of the Phil Rizzuto quote that I found from 1954:

"Minoso always upsets the infield. You know you have to field the ball cleanly and rush your throws when he's at bat or on base. He just doesn't give you any chance to relax, mentally or physically. He gives you the jitters."

In the same Saturday Evening Post article, Casey Stengel said, "Now you see him and then you don't. You don't suppose he's two guys, do you?" Stengel and Rizzuto are no longer here, but I imagine there were others who shared the same impression.

I'm also fascinated by Minoso's showman side, but I can understand why Weinberg might want to downplay that part. In his essay for ChicagoSide, Weinberg says Minoso isn't taken as seriously as he should be, because the Fun Police sneer at his comebacks in 1976 and 1980. So while it might be fun to hear about his 100 suits and apparent fleet of Cadillacs, that might work against his mission of presenting Minoso as a ballplayer first, second and third. Baseball is supposed to be entertainment, but a lot of people look down on Minoso's ability to entertain.

Weinberg focuses on the bona fides of Minoso's history in order to make a direct appeal on behalf of his friend's Hall of Fame case. He's effective on that front, and I hope voters get a chance to watch it when Minoso is next eligible for the Golden Era ballot in 2014.

Hopefully Minoso is still around, too. He turned "89" last month, and he's still able to start his day with 150 sit-ups, so he's doing his part. Jerry Reinsdorf, in what was my favorite quote of the documentary, said he doesn't expect Minoso to go anywhere:

"I'm confident Minnie will make it [into the Hall] in 3 years, and I'm confident Minnie will be here to know about it. I mean, he's at least 104 years old now, and he still drives."

More about Minnie

We've talked a lot about Minoso here, and we will continue to do so. Some links:

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