Once a week long-time radio producer and author Rick Kaempfer shares his favorite brushes with greatness in a feature he calls “Celebrity Snippets.”
Minnie Minoso was one of the all-time greatest Chicago White Sox players. He set a major league record in 1980 when Bill Veeck brought him back for two at-bats, allowing him to have played in the major leagues in 5 different decades (40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s).
During this baseball All-Star week, it only seems fitting to write about my encounters with a former All-Star--former White Sox great Minnie Minoso.
Minoso was the center of controversy last year when a special Hall of Fame committee decided that he was not qualified to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. This caused quite a bit of outrage amongst White Sox fans (and several baseball historians), because it was probably Minoso's final chance to get in the Hall.
I've met Minnie many times over the years. He lives in Chicago, and every time I called him up and asked him to appear at one of the John Landecker Show's live broadcasts, he happily agreed. He would show up with a pile of promo pictures and patiently autograph them for anyone who wanted one. He is a heck of a guy.
Now if you've ever heard Minnie speak, you know that his English is very shaky--even after living here for more than fifty years. (He was supposedly the inspiration for the SNL character who always said "Baseball has been berry berry good to me.") So why would we have someone who could barely speak the language on our radio program? Well, the event we invited him to every year was our annual Mini-Golf fund raiser. We invited several local celebrities to participate, but Minnie was always our star attraction. Bob Sirott from "Fox Thing in the Morning" always sent over a TV crew to simulcast Minnie's portion of our show. Why? Same joke every year.
Bob: Is that Minnie Minoso there, John?
John: Let me ask him. What's your name?
Minnie: Minnie Minoso.
John: What are you playing?
Here's a picture from our first tournament. Standing from left: John Landecker, White Sox organist Nancy Faust, Santa Claus, WJMK afternoon man Scott Miller, Sidekick Vicki Truax and her daughter Teddi, Barry Newman (singer from the Crests), Radio hall of famer Larry Lujack, Carl Giamarese (singer from the Buckinghams), Minnie Minoso, Late sportscaster Tim Weigel, Ronnie Rice (singer from the New Colony Six), Elvis, and Ronald McDonald (This was a benefit for Ronald McDonald House). Kneeling in front holding the sign: Rick Kaempfer & WJMK Promotions Director Michelle Dirks.
I'm not qualified to render an opinion about whether or not Minoso belongs in the baseball Hall of Fame, but I will say this...
Minnie has been berry berry good to me.