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On his 23rd try, and after being denied his last wish, Minnie Miñoso is finally in the Hall of Fame.
Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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Miñoso and Others Deserved Better

With so many players receiving the call to the Hall after they’re gone, it’s time to honor more legends before it’s too late.

Minnie Miñoso finally made it into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The omission of the White Sox legend has been one of the most embarrassing faults of the Hall of Fame voters for decades. In this year’s vote — Minnie’s 23rd try for the Hall — he received 14 of 16 votes.

Miñoso, Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Olivia and Buck O’Neil will officially be inducted on July 24, 2022. This is certainly a worthy group of players — long overdue.

One glaring omission was Dick Allen, who fell just one vote short, in another big mistake made by the Veterans Committee. Allen also fell short by just one vote in 2015. (The Golden Days Committee covers the 1950-69 era and votes once every five years, missing last year due to the pandemic.)

The Negro Leagues have received some much-needed recognition lately, highlighting players like O’Neil, Allen and Miñoso, some of the game’s most beloved figures.

O’Neil helped shape the careers of many players during his career, and became the first black coach in MLB history when hired by the Cubs in 1962.

Back in 2006, it was assumed O’Neil would receive induction into the HOF when a special committee was formed to focus on Negro Leagues legends. Somehow, O’Neil was omitted. With utter graciousness, O’Neil spoke at the ceremony despite not being elected, and sadly passed away that same year.

Miñoso also began his career in the Negro Leagues. He spent three seasons with the New York Cubans before his MLB debut with Cleveland in 1949. The Cuban Comet played parts of 20 seasons in the majors (12 with the White Sox), hitting .299/.387/.461 over 8,223 career plate appearances and receiving 13 total All-Star selections. Miñoso finished as high as fourth in MVP voting on five different occasions, and won three Gold Gloves. He became only the second player to play Major League Baseball in five different decades after Bill Veeck activated him briefly in 1976 and 1980 — at age 50 and 54! Miñoso was last on the ballot in 2014, but was not selected. He passed away in November 2015, after failing to make the Hall in any of his 22 ballots.

Allen should have been inducted back in 2015, but sadly didn’t win election that round and passed away last year. Allen was a phenom, who hit 351 home runs in his 15 major league seasons, and was a seven-time All-Star. He was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1964, with the Phillies, and the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1972, with the White Sox. He batted better than .300 seven times, though when he hit .316 with the 1973 Sox a leg injury had shortened his season to 72 games.

While his career was noteworthy, what he was able to overcome is also worth mentioning. The Phillies fan base and players alike targeted Allen because of the color of his skin.

Mike Schmidt, the Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman, said in a speech at a team ceremony honoring Allen in September that “Dick was a sensitive Black man who refused to be treated as a second-class citizen. He played in front of home fans that were products of that racist era,” and alongside “racist teammates” at a time when there were “different rules for whites and Blacks.”

“Fans threw stuff at him,” Schmidt said, “and thus Dick wore a batting helmet throughout the whole game. They yelled degrading racial slurs. They dumped trash in his front yard at his home.”

The Phillies retired Allen’s jersey number as a way to make amends for the abuse he endured.

Why we can’t give these players their flowers while they are still alive to receive such an honor? Hodges died in 1972, Miñoso in 2015, and O’Neil in 2006. All three players inspired many, and Miñoso and O’Neil were pioneers.

We look up to these players that defined baseball and helped grow the sport. We pass the lore on to our children, grandchildren; share memories our grandparents passed onto us about seeing Miñoso play. Yet they are denied the privilege of the biggest honor a baseball player can receive — a spot in the Hall of Fame — until they’re gone.

While I’m thrilled that O’Neil and Miñoso made it this year, Allen was robbed. And I remain disgusted by the idea of honoring someone long after they’re gone. Allen has a chance for Cooperstown again five years from now, but it’s a shame we didn’t pay him the respect he was due while he was still alive.

It’s long past time that we break this cycle, and give players their flowers while they are still around to receive them.

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