GLENDALE, Ariz. — It was fittingly overcast and cool around the White Sox’ training complex Sunday, symbolic of the huge cloud hanging over an organization that just lost a face of the franchise.
Word that Minnie Minoso had passed away in Chicago quickly spread throughout. In the clubhouse, players who knew the Sox legend well from his regular trips to the ballpark were saddened. Cuban star Jose Abreu, who had grown close to Minoso in his first year in the United States, was too upset by the loss to speak.
“There’s an old expression used when people die, ‘When they made this guy, they broke the mold,’ ’’ Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. “Well, I don’t think there was a mold for Minnie. Minnie was really a unique individual, and there was nothing bad about him.”
You’d have to search far to find a bad word said about Minoso, who was the one making Reinsdorf feel better after he failed to be voted into the Hall of Fame in December.
“The first time I met him, I fell in love with his infectious personality, his love for the White Sox, his love for the game,’’ Reinsdorf said. “He was one of the most genuine people you would ever want to know.
“There has never been a better ambassador for the game or for the White Sox.”
Billy Pierce, a teammate of Minoso’s during the Sox’ heyday in the 1950s, said Minoso’s value went beyond the playing field, “but also for camaraderie with the fans and different things he did. . . . He was probably our most valuable player.’’
Six decades later, Minoso’s presence was still felt in the Sox’ clubhouse.
“He was always there at games and always gave me and Abreu advice,’’ Cuban-born catcher Adrian Nieto said. “I’ll never forget the piece of advice he gave me and Abreu: ‘Just think you’re the best but don’t say it or walk around like you think you are.’ I’ll definitely take that for the rest of my career.’’
Said Cuban-born shortstop Alexei Ramirez: “He was like a father to me. . . . He was always happy around the clubhouse. He would tell stories. . . . We’d talk about everything, about life in Cuba.
“Everybody has to respect his legacy because he did so much for the Latin players, for the Cubans, for everybody because when he arrived here, it was a tough time because of racism and discrimination. He wrote a huge legacy for all of us.’’
Manager Robin Ventura, who played for the Sox during the 1980s and ’90s, said Minoso was the Sox’ face for past generations whose presence was felt till the day he died, a presence that was especially valuable for the Sox’ current contingent of Cuban players.
“He was always upbeat,’’ Ventura said. “It’s sad. It’s sad for us anytime you lose a guy like him.’’
“I am saddened by the news of Minnie’s passing, but when I think of him, laughter and joy come to mind,” executive vice president Ken Williams said. “He was just that way. I only wish he would have lived long enough to see his plaque go up in Cooperstown. He will be missed.”