The Chicago White Sox planned to start 70-year-old Minnie Minoso against the Seattle Mariners tonight, but the American League West champions backed off after players objected.
Minoso, a former star outfielder who claims to be only 67, wants to become a six-decade player but was blocked from playing in 1990 by then-commissioner Fay Vincent, who said it would make a farce of the game.
Bud Selig, chairman of the ruling executive council, and American League President Bobby Brown overturned Vincent’s ruling on Wednesday.
The reversal immediately was denounced as “ridiculous” by the the Major League Baseball Players Assn. and criticized by a number of officials at major league headquarters. By Wednesday night, the White Sox had a change of heart.
“Several players have voiced their displeasure over the signing of Minnie Minoso,” General Manager Ron Schueler said. “The team has other things to focus on that are far more important. After talking with Minnie, we have decided he will not play tomorrow.”
Earlier in the day, Minoso’s enthusiasm was unbounded at the prospect of playing left field and batting leadoff.
“I never dreamed this would happen,” he said. “This is not a clown thing. I love the game. I gave all my life to it. . . . I just hope I wake up tomorrow and I’m alive to do it.”
Minoso last played in October 1980 when he went 0 for 2 as a pinch-hitter for the White Sox.
Eugene Orza, associate general counsel of the players’ association, was appalled when he first learned of the White Sox’s plans.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t understand it. I’ve heard from the players about it. I understand they’re quite concerned about it.
“There are a lot of valid ways to promote baseball, but playing someone as old as Minnie Minoso in a game in which he actually plays the field can’t be one of the better ones.”
Vincent, speaking from his New York home, said he made his decision because he wanted to uphold the game’s integrity.
“I didn’t think anybody who wasn’t able to play at the highest level should be able to participate in a championship game,” he said. “You would trivialize the game. What about the records?”
Added Orza: “If it was a farce for the game, which was the ruling then, what is the difference now?”
Chuck O’Connor, general counsel of the owners’ Player Relation Committee, called the move by the White Sox “circus-like.”
Selig defended his approval.
“You never want to turn the game into a farce, but in this case this is a club and a player that (say) the guy is in great shape,” he said. “And it was the club’s view, and Bobby Brown’s and my view that we weren’t turning it into a farce.”