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Family, friends, fans gather for Minoso

CHICAGO -- Former Chicago White Sox players, team staff and fans gathered Friday at a visitation to remember the life of Minnie Minoso, who passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 90.

Photos of Minoso’s life, both as a White Sox player and ambassador, adorned the aisles of Holy Family Church in Chicago, while members of Minoso’s family greeted visitors. Everybody who came to pay their respects received a prayer card that also doubled as a Minoso baseball card, with a heartfelt thank you from the family on the back.

“Our entire family appreciates the kind expression of concern, sympathy and compassion from so many of our friends and fans of the White Sox during this most difficult time,” the back of the card read. “Minnie lived a full life of joy and happiness, surrounded always by friends and family. It is during moments like these that love matters most. Minnie enjoyed nothing more than to be at the ballpark cheering on his White Sox. For Minnie, every day was a reason to smile and he would want us all to remember him that way, smiling at a ballgame. As he so often said, ‘God Bless you, my friends.’”

The front of the card was of Minoso in his playing days, in full uniform, with his hands on his hips.

Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday at Holy Family Church.

Former White Sox slugger Ron Kittle, who also served as a team ambassador with Minoso, was one of the first to arrive at Friday’s visitation.

“You know, he’s instrumental in my life,” Kittle said. “He tried me out in 1978 just to be on the Sox, and if I fail, I’m not a ballplayer. He was there. It’s heartbreaking, but this is a celebration. This is a guy who had a tremendous life, loving everybody. I’m going to miss his hugs. I’m going to miss that ugly Cadillac with those streamers flying as he went to the ballpark.”

Brooks Boyer, team vice president of sales and marketing, confirmed that White Sox players will wear patches on their sleeves this year with Minoso’s No. 9. That number has long since been retired by the team. Other remembrances and celebrations of Minoso will follow this summer during the upcoming season.

“There is no question when you look at what he did on the field, he’s a Hall of Fame player, but for us he’s a Hall of Fame person,” Boyer said. “There is no better way to honor him than to do things at the ballpark in his memory. … Hopefully, it’s one of those things where Minnie, watching down on our ball team from heaven, will put us into where we want to be in October.”

Christine O’Reilly, White Sox vice president of community relations, said she met Minoso on her first day of work with the club as a senior in high school when she worked in the information booth at the old ballpark. When she pulled up for her first day, Minoso was one of the first people to greet her. They remained close friends through the years.

“Who in this city does not have two autographs from Minnie Minoso? But wouldn't you get in line and wait for another one?” O’Reilly said. “It’s just the spirit that he exuded. I just don't think we'll ever find another ambassador of baseball, ambassador of the White Sox, like him. They say no one is irreplaceable, but Minnie is irreplaceable.”

Along with Kittle, other former White Sox players to attend Friday’s visitation were Donn Pall and Dan Pasqua. Illinois governor Bruce Rauner was also in attendance Friday.

A procession immediately after Saturday’s funeral services will lead past U.S. Cellular Field, as well as near home plate of old Comiskey Park, which is located in the parking lot just north of the new park.

The team is suggesting that fans interested in observing Saturday’s procession gather in the area that marks home plate of old Comiskey Park.