Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Beyond FAREWELL: Buck O’Neil, “Baseball Star who Outlived the Segregation of America’s Negro Leagues”

But John “Buck” O’Neil did much more than outlive segregation, and he played a prominent role in Ken Burns’ 1993 documentary Baseball because of all he’d accomplished through the years. “As clearly as he delineated the sad history of prejudice that had denied him the chance to excel on a bigger stage,” an obituary from The Guardian reads, “O’Neil displayed an enthusiasm for the game—as player, manager, scout and coach—so heartfelt that he was effectively baseball's one-man peace and reconciliation commission.

“His remarkable attitude was displayed again this summer, when US baseball admitted an additional 17 Negro League players to its Hall of Fame. O’Neil had been one of the 39 candidates considered by a special committee, but fell one vote short of election. However, he still delivered the keynote address in Cooperstown, New York, that day, and told the crowd, ‘I want you to light up this valley.... They didn’t feel Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame, so we’re going to live with that. Now if I’m a Hall of Famer for you, that’s all right for me.... Don’t weep for Buck, be happy, be humble.’”

Young O’Neil did weep—for two days—when he was denied admission to a segregated Sarasato, Florida, high school. But he earned his high school diploma and took college-level courses elsewhere (he was also barred from attending the University of Florida), eventually taking his incredible baseball skills on the road with Negro League teams. Ultimately, Buck O’Neil would work as a scout for Major League Baseball teams; he was named the first black coach in the majors when he took that job with the Chicago Cubs in 1962. O’Neil also helped establish the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City and fought to create a pension fund for veterans of black baseball.

Buck O’Neil died Friday, October 6. He was 94.

Thanks once again to Patry Francis at Simply Wait for the link to Buck O’Neil’s obituary in The Guardian. Another tribute has been posted on the Chicago Tribune site.

“Be happy, be humble.” Amen.

Photo © Reuters


Blogger Patry Francis said...

I hadn't seen the tribute in the Tibune. What an amazing man!

11:14 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

You're right, Patry. It seems his passing marks the end of an era... K.

8:41 PM  

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