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Jose Contreras

Jose Contreras honored by Hall’s invite to East-West Classic

Hall of Fame adds Afro Latinos to Negro Leagues tribute

Jose Contreras was sitting in the White Sox’s home clubhouse in the summer of 2004 when the legendary Minnie Miñoso walked in to greet him. With his trademark smile and distinct Cuban dialect, the late Miñoso welcomed his fellow Cuban to the Southside of Chicago. 

Contreras jumped from his chair and hugged Miñoso, a former Negro Leagues star who is widely considered the Latino Jackie Robinson.

“Then I started crying,” Contreras said in Spanish recently. “It was history. That smile too. I will never forget that smile. Minnie is our Jackie Robinson. He was one of the first Latinos in the big leagues.”

Jose Contreras ready for East-West Classic

Contreras grew up in Cuba learning about Miñoso and other Afro Latino stars in Major League Baseball. He then immersed himself in baseball history after he defected from Cuba and signed with the Yankees. Knowing the rich history of Miñoso, Robinson and other Negro Leaguers who paved the way for him, Contreras was ecstatic when the National Baseball Hall of Fame invited him to participate in The Hall of Fame’s East-West Classic on Memorial Day weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The Hall’s East-West Classic will pay tribute to the Negro Leagues’ East-West All-Star Game, which was played from 1933 through 1962. This year’s East-West Classic in Cooperstown will be part of the events tied to the opening of the Hall’s “The Souls of the Game: Voices of Black Baseball” exhibit.

Miñoso was one of many Afro Latino stars who found a home in the Negro Leagues before Robinson broke MLB’s color barrier on April 15, 1947, with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Recognizing that legacy of inclusion, the Hall of Fame has invited Contreras, former two-time All-Star Melvin Mora of Venezuela and Cuban Negro Leaguer Pedro Sierra to appear at the East-West Classic.

Afro Latinos found home in Negro Leagues

“Hundreds of Latin American athletes were denied a chance in the American League and National League because of the color of their skin before Jackie Robinson and Minnie Miñoso broke down those barriers in the late 1940s,” said Hall of Fame president Josh Rawitch.“But they found a home in the Negro Leagues, which offered opportunity at the highest level of play.

“We are honored to celebrate the diversity of the Negro Leagues at The Hall of Fame East-West Classic on Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown.”


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Contreras was humbled by the Hall of Fame’s invitation. He’s also excited to compete in the exhibition game that has already received commitments from some of the biggest African American stars of the last 30 years.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Ozzie Smith are among the 10 Hall of Famers who will serve among the managers and coaches for the exhibition. Six-time All-Star CC Sabathia is adamant that he will be ready to pitch in the exhibition.

Jose Contreras
CHICAGO – OCTOBER 16: The Chicago White Sox celebrate after winning Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angels Stadium on October 16, 2005 in Anaheim, California. The White Sox defeated the Angels 6-3 to become American League Champions and advance to the World Series for the first time since 1959. Photo Courtesy of the Chicago White Sox.

Contreras, a 2005 World Series champion, retired in 2013. He proudly says that he threw between 88-91-mph a few weeks ago during a live bullpen session for a team of Cubans. He also throws from time to time to his 15-year-old son Joseph, a 6-foot-4 slugger who is considered one of the top sophomore baseball players in America.

Embracing history

Contreras has coached many youth baseball players since he retired. He takes pride in nurturing the players’ love of baseball by teaching them about the game’s rich history. 

“Baseball is my life,” he says. “To play baseball is my life. This is a great opportunity. It is something that is very different. When they invited me, I said, ‘Wow, man.’ I was in Cooperstown just two years ago. 

“They were explaining to me what they were doing this year (with the East-West Classic). It’s interesting. It’s a beautiful page of baseball history. I was the No. 1 fan of Satchel Paige. I feel bad that I couldn’t throw 90-mph at 50.”

Contreras will get a chance to see if he can hit 90-mph again at 52 years old this summer in Cooperstown.

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