Outtakes: Sports Icon Minnie Minoso


Dave Zirin wrote in The Nation, March 2, 2015, “The Passing of Three Interconnected Icons: Earl Lloyd, Minnie Minoso, and Anthony Mason:

“The awful cliché that tragedy occurs in threes became prophecy over the last week in the world of sports. A trio of towering athletes died, two from age and one decades before his time. These three shared something powerful in common, beyond their field of work. None were ever formally recognized as Hall of Famers for their play, yet all were truly iconic. They were the kinds of players that young sportswriters made pilgrimages to interview; the kind who could either silence a room or cause attendees to spontaneously rise to their feet. They also shared a deeper sociopolitical significance worth remembrance and appreciation. Their names were Earl Lloyd, Orestes ‘Minnie’ Minoso and Anthony Mason.”

Minnie Minoso, Major League Baseball's first black player in Chicago, stands during
the national anthem before a Chicago White Sox game. (AP Photo/David Banks)

The following scene was cut from The FOG MACHINE during the last major revision. But it was one of my favorites.

Saturday Afternoon at Comiskey Park with C.J., Mae, Flo, and Alinda

With only a few blocks to go, C.J. pranced alongside Mae, clutching her ticket. She hardly knew which was more incredible, her first professional baseball game or Mae finally getting Saturday off. And just in time, too. C.J. was determined to stay away from Flo.

Alinda and Flo were right behind them. Only Alinda had followed Mae’s instructions on what to wear. A blouse and slacks with a sweater thrown over her shoulders. Flo—C.J. had to agree with her on this—was dressed right for a ballgame, in jeans.

Smells from the nearby stockyards pushed closer, like the swelling crowd. C.J. covered her nose. But she forgot the odor when she saw the words over the arched windows of the main gate. COMISKEY PARK. “Daddy,” she whispered. “I’ll remember everything about this to tell you when I come home.”

Inside, they made their way to the cheap seats, green metal with spindly arms and legs. Leading the way into their row, Mae took the second seat. When Flo took the seat farthest away, C.J. took the closest one. “That one’s Alinda’s,” Mae said. She patted the empty seat between her and Flo. “This one’s yours.”

C.J. moved over but stood, stiffly, staring out at the people of all ages, whites and Negroes together.

“Bob Shaw’s the starting pitcher,” Mae announced, lifting her head from her program. “C.J., sit down.”

“Maybe—” She settled herself with exaggerated slowness. “You could go see do they need another umpire.”

“Shaw’s good,” Mae said, one eyebrow cocked. “But not as good as Early Wynn. Ain’t he just got the best name?”

C.J. closed her eyes during the national anthem. As the game got underway, she watched the outfielders twitch in anticipation, imagining how the grass felt beneath their feet.

“Go, Minnie, go!” yelled a man from somewhere behind them.

“Come back home where you belong!” shrieked a woman down in front.

Still others took up the shouting. C.J. studied the dark-skinned Indians’ batter.

“He’s fine to look on, ain’t he?” Mae asked.

“But he’s on the other team. Why’s everyone cheering for him?”

“He used to be on our team, ’til he got traded.”

When Bob Shaw retired the Indians, Luis Aparicio, another dark-skinned man, led off for the White Sox. The crowd roared their approval.

“Daddy would surely not believe his eyes,” C.J. said. “Only thing he ever saw was a field of Negro players in New Orleans. The time he got the ball off Johnny Bissant—”

“Now that girl’s got class.” Mae elbowed C.J. and pointed. “C.J., Flo, y’all look at her outfit. What’d I tell y’all?”

C.J. followed Mae’s finger, past the overdressed girl to the hotdog vendor climbing the steps behind her. “Y’all hungry?”

If you’re going to dress up—” Mae’s look said clothes were far more important than food. “You got to know what’s in style and what’s not.”

Sure,” Flo said. “I’ll buy.” She waved her arm overhead, handed over money, and passed hotdogs back down the line.

“Thanks, Flo.” C.J. concentrated for a moment on peeling back the paper and making sure the mustard didn’t drip. Her gaze returned to the outfielders but wandered to the thousands of seats ringing the field, then up to more arched windows in the walls. “Wonder if baseballs go that high? There’s kids all up in there, holding gloves, just waiting on one to come their way. Wanting to catch a ball like my daddy did—”

What?” Alinda said when Mae and Flo laughed as she wadded up her wrapper. “So? I love hotdogs.” She brushed her hands together. “Now, how y’all think we’re gonna do this year?”

“We’re in first place,” Mae said. “I reckon that’s a good sign.”

“First place?” C.J. said. “When we talked on the trip up from Poplar Springs, they were in second place.”

“Where you been, C.J.? We been holding on to first place all of August.”

C.J. looked left past Mae.

“It’s so,” Alinda said.

When C.J. looked right, Flo shrugged as if to say she hadn’t known that either.

“We just may go all the way this year,” Mae said. “It’s high time after chasing the dream for so long.”

A dark-skinned White Sox player stepped to the plate wearing number sixteen. He swung. Strike one.

“We want Minnie!” someone yelled.

Strike two. Others began to boo.

“Good heavens,” C.J. said when Mae joined them. “You can’t boo one of your own.”

“That’s Al Smith.”


“He’s who we got when we lost Minnie in the trade.”

“He any good?”

“Not as good as Minnie.” Mae’s tone suggested that seeing number sixteen strike out should have said it all.

“Seems to me he will be, though. This trading—that something he’d get a say in?”

“Probably not.”

“Then it doesn’t seem right—yelling at him.”

“We cheer when our favorite player comes up to bat. When something ain’t how we like it, we booreal loud,” Mae said. “That’s how it is in baseball.”

Minoso came up again, crowding the plate, looking fearless. Shaw’s pitch struck him, and he took a base. Until the ninth inning, neither Minoso nor Smith got a hit. With one on and one out, Smith hit a home run off a pitch by Cleveland’s Bell. C.J. elbowed Mae. “What’d I tell you?”

When they lost six to five, C.J. leaned back in her seat, smiling and satisfied. “I got to say it was a fine sight to behold anyways. I can’t wait to tell Daddy about watching Al Smith do his best.”

“It was terrible!” Mae said. “Al Smith striking out before, that probably lost the game.”

“Seems silly to me, caring so much about winning.”

“You just don’t get it, C.J.”

This time, C.J. looked only at Flo. Her shrug made C.J. smile.

*  *  *


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