When Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, took to the House floor on Wednesday, he paid tribute to former White Sox player Minnie Minoso, the first black player from Latin America, who died on Sunday.
Cohen told a touching tale about an encounter he had with Minoso in 1955 in Memphis, where the White Sox were playing an exhibition game. At the time, Cohen was a young Sox fan recovering from polio and using crutches to get around.
Cohen said he was wearing a White Sox cap and t-shirt while getting autographs prior to the start of the game, when a white player gave him a baseball.
From the New York Daily News:
He told his dad who was elsewhere in the stands. The dad told him to go back and thank the player. When he did, the Sox pitcher said to thank that player over there, pointing to Minoso, the lone black among the White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.
“In segregated Memphis a black player didn’t feel comfortable” giving a ball to a white kid, Cohen said on the House Floor. So, Minoso asked a teammate to give the ball to the boy on crutches.
Minoso and Cohen became friends, and years later when Minoso saw Cohen’s dad a Dodgers game, asked, “Doc, how’s the kid’s leg?”
In a statement, Cohen stressed just how much of an impact Minoso had on his life.
“Five years later, when Minnie came back to Memphis for another exhibition game, I visited him at the Lorraine Motel where he stayed with other black players while the white players stayed at the Peabody,” Cohen wrote. “These early experiences in my life helped me understand the horrors of segregation, discrimination, and prejudice.”
Cohen finished up his speech with heartfelt gratitude.
“I’ll miss Minnie Minoso,” Cohen said. “He’s a lesson why sports are more important than runs, hits and errors. Thank you, Minnie.”
It’s not the first time Cohen has taken time on the House floor to tell the story and pay tribute to Minoso.
After Minoso missed the cut for the Hall of Fame in December, Cohen talked fondly of his “hero,” telling the story from 1955 about the “blackest player on the field” who was the player with the “most compassionate heart and humanity on the field, because that was the segregated south.”
You can watch it all here, which starts near the 24-minute mark: