Tony Perez: Luis Tiant, Minnie Miñoso should be in Hall of Fame too
- Submitted by: manso
- Editorial Articles
- 08 / 22 / 2011
Aug 21, 2011.By Cesar Brioso, USA TODAY.NEW YORK -- Hall of Famer Tony Perez thinks there should be at least a couple more Cuban players enshrined in Cooperstown.
"Including some that are sitting here today," Perez said Saturday at a congress on Cuban baseball history at Fordham University School of Law.
No doubt the first baseman of the Cincinnati Reds' Big Red Machine of the 1970s was referring to pitcher Luis Tiant and outfielder Orestes "Minnie" Miñoso, who also attended Saturday's event, organized by the Cuban Cultural Center of New York.
The other former Cuban major-leaguers who attended were Cookie Rojas, Jose Cardenal and Julio Becquer.
Perez was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, but Tiant is no longer eligible to be voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America after failing to receive the necessary 75% votes after being on the ballot 15 times. This despite a 229-172 record with a 3.30 ERA during a 19-year career with the Indians, Twins, Red Sox, Yankees, Pirates and Angels.
Tiant, became emotional when he talked about making the 2009 movie, The Lost Son of Havana, which documented his first visit to Cuba since he left in the early 1960s.
"The moment I got off the plane my heart was pounding," said Tiant, who at one point had to pause to wipe away tears. "When the plane laned I started sweating. The things you see after living here so many years, you see your family, how they live, you can't enjoy (the visit). I walked past my old house because I didn't recognize it. You feel bad. This is your county, your family."
Miñoso, who batted .298 with 186 home runs, 1,023 RBI and 205 stolen bases in a 17-year career mostly with the White Sox and Indians, was among the players considered for induction by a special committee of Negro League experts in 2006. But Minoso wasn't among the 17 inductees selected by the committee because he only played a few seasons in the Negro leagues.
The congress' focus was on the history of baseball in Cuba, including the island's professional winter league. Minoso and Becquer, who played for the Senators in the 1950s, had played for the Cuban League's Marianao team. Tiant played one season with Habana and Rojas was a member of the Cienfuegos team.
"I didn't think about playing the major leagues, playing in the United State," said Perez, who hit 379 home runs and drove in 1,652 during 23 seasons in the majors. "I thought about playing for one of the four (Cuban League) teams that played at Havana's Gran Stadium."
Rojas, who played 16 seasons -- as an infielder mostly with the Phillies and Royals -- during the 1960s and '70s, was asked about another Cuban infielder he coached with the Mets in 1997: Cuban defector and then-Mets shortstop Rey Ordoñez, who won the first of three Gold Gloves with his acrobatic plays.
"What Rey Ordoñez did that season was incredible," Rojas said. "It was incredible to see a shortstop do what he did. He was one of the best to ever play in the majors."
Rojas, who is a Spanish television analyst for the Marlins, also was asked about the team's attendance problems, despite the Miami area having a large Cuban community and the team having won two World Series titles in its 19-year history.
"The fan base still hasn't grown in Miami like it has in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, which have fan bases that have been there for years and years," Rojas said. "It's a young team. ... With the move to (the city of) Miami, with a new stadium, I think the fan base will grow much more than we've seen."
Editor's note:Cesar Brioso moderated one of the panels at the Cuban Cultural Center's congress on on Cuban baseball history.