Minnie Minoso's bid to play professional baseball in a sixth decade was blocked yesterday when his contract with the Miami Miracle of the Florida State League was rejected by the commissioner's office.
Minoso, 68, who last played in 1980, when he appeared in two games with the Chicago White Sox, had been working out at the White Sox's spring training complex in Sarasota, Fla. He was scheduled to appear as a designated hitter or pinch hitter in Saturday night's game between Miami and the Fort Lauderdale Yankees.
Bill Murray, director of baseball operations in the commissioner's office, rejected Minoso's contract.
"The question is, 'Is he a competitive player for the league or not?' " Murray said in New York. "I'd say it was a relatively simple decision."
Mike Veeck, president of the Miracle, said he was told the contract had been turned down because baseball felt it would "trivialize the game."
"They just don't get it," Veeck said. "They'd rather read about umpires on strike or $15 million contracts. These are the same guys who said the midget was an idiotic idea. They leave their sense of humor at the door when they get to work. This isn't the game my daddy passed to me."
It was Veeck's father, Bill, who brought Minoso back in 1980 and in 1976, when the outfielder appeared in three games with the White Sox. Bill Veeck also sent 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel up to bat as a pinch hitter for the St. Louis Browns in 1951.
Mike Veeck had planned Minoso's appearance around a promotion scheduled to include baseball clown Max Patkin and Morganna the Kissing Bandit, a stripteaser who is part owner of the Utica Blue Sox of the New York-Penn League.
Veeck said Minoso will still be at the game.
"I'll have him do everything I can think of, short of playing," he said.
* JURISPRUDENCE: Ten men and two women were sworn in as jurors in the attempted-extortion trial of Howard Spira, the self-described gambler whose dealings with George Steinbrenner led to the New York Yankees owner's losing control of the team.
Spira's trial in Manhattan federal court will continue this morning when attorneys present opening statements to the jury.
Steinbrenner, a key prosecution witness, is expected to testify during the trial which is expected to last three to four weeks.
Spira, 31, of the Bronx, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to get money from Steinbrenner by threatening to ruin his reputation.