Left-hander Jim Kaat, who spent four seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and was part of their 1982 World Series championship team, and outfielder Minnie Miñoso, who played 39 games with the Cardinals near the end of his career, were two of the six players elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday night.
Buck O'Neil, a champion of Black ballplayers during a monumental, eight-decade career on and off the field, joined Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges and Tony Oliva in being chosen by a pair of veterans committees.
Oliva and Kaat, both 83 years old, are the only living new members. Longtime slugger Dick Allen, who died last December, fell one vote shy of election and was one of three former Cardinals who were on the Golden Days Era ballot but were not elected. Third baseman Ken Boyer, who played for the Cardinals from 1955-65 and managed them from 1978-80, and outfielder Roger Maris, who spent the 1967-68 seasons in St. Louis, also fell short.
The six newcomers will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24, 2022, along with any new members elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. First-time candidates David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez join Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling on the ballot, with voting results on Jan. 25.
Passed over in previous Hall elections, the new members reflect a diversity of accomplishments.
This was the first time O’Neil, Miñoso and Fowler had a chance to make the Hall under new rules honoring Negro League contributions. Last December, the statistics of some 3,400 players were added to Major League Baseball’s record books when MLB said it was “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history” and reclassifying the Negro Leagues as a major league.
Miñoso was a two-time All-Star in the Negro Leagues before becoming the first Black player for the Chicago White Sox in 1951. Born in Havana, “The Cuban Comet” was a seven-time All-Star while with the White Sox and Indians.
“Trailblazer among Afro-Latinos and Cubans, five-tool dynamo on the baseball diamond, ‘Mr. White Sox' ... any description of his career now ends with the words ‘Hall of Famer,'" Chicago chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement.
There was nothing mini about Saturnino Orestes Armas Miñoso on the field. He hit over .300 eight times with Cleveland and Chicago, led the AL in stolen bases three times, reached double digits in home runs most every season and won three Gold Gloves in left field.
Miñoso was traded from the White Sox to the Cardinals prior to the 1962 season and saw brief action with St. Louis, missing two months after crashing into an outfield wall. He posted a .196 batting average in his lone season as a Cardinal.
Miñoso finished up, or so it seemed, in 1964. He came back at age 50 for the White Sox in 1976 — going 1 for 8 — and batted twice in 1980, giving him five decades of playing pro ball.
The White Sox retired his No. 9 in 1983 and he remained close to the organization and its players before his death in 2015.
Kaat was 283-237 in 25 seasons and a 16-time Gold Glove winner.
“I never thought I was the No. 1 pitcher,” he said. “I wasn’t dominant. I was durable and dependable. I am grateful they chose to reward dependability.”
Kaat was a three-time All-Star, a three-time 20-game winner and pitched in four decades. He boosted the Twins into the 1965 World Series, and he finished his career as a Cardinal, posting a 3.82 ERA in 176 games from 1980-83 and winning a World Series ring in '82. Kaat became a longtime broadcaster after he finished playing.
O’Neil and Fowler were selected by the Early Days committee. Hodges, Miñoso, Oliva and Kaat were chosen by the Golden Days committees.
The 16-member panels met separately in Orlando, Florida. The election announcement was originally scheduled to coincide with the big league winter meetings, which were nixed because of the MLB lockout.
It took 12 votes (75%) for selection: Miñoso drew 14, O’Neil got 13 and Hodges, Oliva, Kaat and Fowler each had 12. Allen had 11.