Saturday, October 07, 2006

Buck O'Neil, Dead at 94

Yesterday was a sad day. Buck O'Neil died at the age of 94 in a Kansas City hospital and Kauffman Stadium will never be quite the same. I was always amazed by the man's love for baseball. Whether it was 44 degrees in early April or 102 in mid-August, you could always find Buck O'Neil sitting in the stands watching the game, and the team, he loved.

He fought hard to keep the memories of the Negro league players alive. And nobody can think of the Negro League Baseball Museum without thinking about Buck O'Neil. O'Neil never got to play one inning of major league baseball because of his skin color. But during the 1930's and 1940's he played Negro league baseball during its heyday. It's a shame that such a league needed to exist, but at the same time, if it hadn't, guys like O'Neil wouldn't have been able to play. He led the league in hitting twice as a Kansas City Monarch, hitting .345 in 1940, and .350 in 1946. He was a three-time East-West All-Star. And he managed the team from 1948-1955. 

The baseball world celebrated as guys like Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, and Josh Gibson were inducted into the Hall of Fame mostly because of what they did in the Negro leagues, but we were in shock when O'Neil was not one of the seventeen players elected into the Hall in February of this year when a special vote was held to consider former Negro league players. To say that Buck O'Neil doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame after he spent seven decades in the game (many of which he spent working in the Chicago Cubs' organization) and continued to be one of its biggest advocates up until the end is ludicrous.

He went to the induction ceremony anyway on July 30, 2006 and he opened it by sharing memories of the Negro leagues. That was the kind of guy he was. He didn't hold a grudge. He just showed up whenever baseball was being played or discussed.

According to this article in the New York Times, O'Neil said this in his autobiography about not getting a chance to play Major League Baseball: “Waste no tears for me. I didn’t come along too early. I was right on time. You see, I don’t have a bitter story. I truly believe I have been blessed.”

And we were blessed to have you as long as we did Buck.

Here are some links to stories about O'Neil:

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics