Saturday, October 07, 2006

RIP Buck O'Neil

NYTimes: Buck O’Neil, Negro Leagues Pioneer, Is Dead at 94

WaPo: Negro League Great Buck O'Neil Dies

The man was a great ambassador for the game, yet inexplicably, when a special panel was convened to admit as many Negro Leagues players as possible in 2006, O'Neil was not voted in. Reportedly he lost out by one vote.

His credentials:

- First baseman and later manager of the Kansas City Monarchs from 1938 until 1955 (interrupted by service in the Navy from 1943 to 1945), leading the team as manager to five pennants and two Negro World Series titles and winning a batting title in 1946.

- Career batting average of .288, including four .300-plus seasons at the plate. In 1946 the first baseman led the league in hitting with a .353 average and followed that in 1947 with a career-best .358 mark. He also posted averages of .345 in 1940 and .330 in 1949. He played in four East-West All-Star games and two Negro League World Series.

- Became a scout for the Chicago Cubs in 1956, signed Lou Brock to his first major-league contract

- First black coach in major league history, Chicago Cubs, 1962

Good article on the stupid secret process and how he was omitted:

The Tufts Daily: Buck O'Neil, 94, is rejected by Hall of Fame Committee

[The special committee] did, however, vote in Andy Cooper, who was (see if this sounds familiar) a fine player and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs. He died in 1941. []

The committee also voted in Effa Manley, the first woman inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Her credentials? She co-owned the Newark Eagles with her husband, Abe, for 14 seasons. The team won one championship. Also, she was outspoken. Also, her biographer, Jim Overmyer, was on the committee.


All his life, Buck O'Neil has had doors slammed in his face. He played baseball at a time when the major leagues did not allow black players. He was a gifted manager at a time when major league owners would not even think of having an African-American lead their teams. For more than 30 years, he told stories about Negro Leagues players and nobody wanted to listen.

Now, after everything, he was being told that the life he had spent in baseball was not worthy of the Hall of Fame. It was enough to make those around him cry. But Buck laughed. "I'm still Buck," he said. "Look at me. I've lived a good life. I'm still living a good life. Nothing has changed for me."

A few minutes later, when he was told that 17 persons had made it, he shouted: "Wonderful."

That's Buck O'Neil. Who else would respond that way to such a shameful vote? No one. I don't know what the July day will be like when 17 persons long dead - 10 of the 17 have been gone for more than 50 years - get inducted into the Hall of Fame. It's hard to believe it will be much of a celebration. Who will speak for the dead?

"I don't know," Buck O'Neil said. "I wonder if they'll ask me to speak."

Would he really speak at the Hall of Fame after he wasn't voted in?

"Of course," Buck said. "If they asked me."

They asked, and he spoke, but he should have been in the hall. Shame, shame on baseball, once again.

Induction Transcript: Buck O'Neil
Negro League Legend speaks at Hall of Fame Induction

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum: Chairman's Message

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