CHICAGO — White Sox legend Minnie Minoso died Saturday night in Chicago, the team announced Sunday.
Minoso, whose full name was Saturnino Orestes Armas “Minnie” Minoso Arrieta, was the first black player White Sox history when he debuted with the team on May 1, 1951, the Sox said.
The so-called "Cuban Comet" was a seven-time All-Star who was almost as well known for his post-retirement job an ambassador for the team, interacting with many fans at Sox games at U.S. Cellular Field and at community events.
“Our organization and our city have suffered a heart-breaking loss today,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the White Sox. “We have lost our dear friend and a great man. Many tears are falling."
Police said Minoso was found unresponsive in his car in the 2800 block of North Ashland Avenue and was pronounced dead at the scene. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said an autopsy showed he died of a tear in his pulmonary artery and hypertension due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Through the White Sox, Minoso's family issued a statement thanking friends and Sox fans for all their expressions of sympathy.
"Minnie lived a full life of joy and happiness, surrounded always by friends and family," the statement said. "Minnie enjoyed nothing more than to be at the ballpark cheering on his White Sox. For Minnie, every day was a reason to smile, and he would want us all to remember him that way, smiling at a ballgame. As he so often said, 'God Bless you, my friends.'”
Minoso leaves behind his wife of 30 years, Sharon, sons Orestes Jr. and Charlie, and daughters Marilyn and Cecilia, the team said.
“Minnie truly was the heart, soul and smile of the White Sox,” said Christine O’Reilly, vice president of community relations for the White Sox. “We saw him every day at the ballpark and he loved the fans and the White Sox dearly. Nothing made him prouder than to be at the ballpark.”
In a statement, President Barack Obama said: "For South Siders and Sox fans all across the country, including me, Minnie Minoso is and will always be 'Mr. White Sox.'
"Minnie may have been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but for me and for generations of black and Latino young people, Minnie's quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever could."
"Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to his family and fans in Chicago, Cleveland, and around the world," Obama said.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement saying the city lost "a legend on and off the field."
"His heroics, combining speed and power, brought joy to generations of fans on the South Side and his infectious enthusiasm forever solidified his place as a Chicago icon for the ages," Emanuel said. "Soon it will be spring, the Sox will take the field, and ‘The Cuban Comet’ will be looming large in spirit."
Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said his team joined the Sox in mourning Minoso.
“Having recently lost one of our all-time greats, Ernie Banks, we share the heartache with the White Sox organization and fans everywhere who were blessed to enjoy the talent, heart and passion of 'Mr. White Sox,'" Ricketts said. "He will be forever known as an electric offensive player and great ambassador for the game of baseball.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner also released a statement mourning Minoso.
"The 'Cuban Comet' inspired generations as the first black player for the White Sox and Chicago and one of the first Latino stars in the major leagues," Rauner said. "Decades after Minoso's time on the field was over, his impact is still felt throughout the major leagues and the city. The entire state owes him a debt of gratitude."
Frank Thomas took to twitter to pay respect to the White Sox legend.
Wow so sorry to hear the passing of Mr. Minnie Minoso!! We will always love you Minnie! A true White Sox legend.— Frank Thomas (@TheBigHurt_35) March 1, 2015
The Sox said Minoso once said he wanted to die playing baseball.
“Truly. They don’t bury me without my uniform. If I die, I die happy because I was wearing No. 9 for the White Sox," Minoso said, according to the team.
Minoso’s uniform No. 9 was retired in 1983 and a sculpture of Minoso was unveiled in 2004.
Details about services are still being determined.
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