Minnie Minoso, the only expansion Senator in the Hall of Fame

Orestes “Minnie” Minoso, inducted in 2022, is the only member of the Hall of Fame to have played for the expansion Washington Senators. He did so during that franchise’s worst season, 1963, when he was 39 years old. It was the last time he played on semi-regular basis, appearing 109 games and getting up 363 times.

My 1963 Topps Minoso card

After a skull fracture and broken wrist limited him to 39 games in St. Louis in 1962, the Cardinals sold Minoso to the Senators right before the start of the 1963 season. He hit just .229 for a Senators’ team that hit .227 with a .297 on-base percentage. (Minoso’s was .315.) The right-handed batter started 71 games in the outfield and seven at third base, where he hadn’t started a game since 1956.

Minoso was in left field for the Senators on the last day of the season, fittingly in Chicago, where he was a seven-time all-star in the 1950s. Minnie ended his Nats’ tenure on a high note, going for 3-for-4 with a triple and a walk. The last-place Nats beat the second-place White Sox, winning for just the 56th time and denying Gary Peters a 20th victory.

Minoso’s triple was the last of the 95 three-baggers hit by the man known in his prime as the “Cuban Comet.” He led the A.L.in triples three times with as many as 18 and in stolen bases three times. He stole 31 bases in 1951, when he clearly should have been the rookie-of-the-year over Gil McDougald.

Coincidentally, a slugger for the original Senators who in 1968 managed the expansion team, Jim Lemon, also tripled in the same game. It would be his last appearance in the majors. In 1960, the Griffith team’s last season in D.C., Lemon had battled Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris for the A.L. home run crown, finishing with 38, two less than Mantle and one less than Maris.

(Of course, two other men who managed the expansion Senators — Gil Hodges and Ted Williams — are in the Hall of Fame, based on their playing careers.)

Minoso’s ’63 season in Washington and his 38 plate appearances back with the White Sox in 1964, dropped his lifetime batting average to .299 (29867). His token appearances with Chicago in 1976 (1-for 8) at age 52 and 1980 (0-for-2) at age 56, made him a five-decade player, but pulled him down to .298 (2983).

Had he known then that his stats with the Negro National League’s New York Cubans would become part of a player’s MLB career totals, he might have reconsidered the stunts. Without those 10 at-bats but with the Negro League stats, Minoso’s lifetime average would have been rounded up to an even .300 (.2996), instead of .299. In any case, Minoso didn’t live to experience his induction into the Hall of Fame. He died in Chicago at age 91 on March 1, 2015.

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