Any opportunity to watch an interview with Buck O’Neil is always a treat, and this is no exception. I really love how Buck talks about Jackie Robinson in this, and the interview as a whole is so enjoyable.
John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil, Jr. was born on November 13, 1911 in Carrabelle, Florida. He grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where he worked in the celery fields while his father ran a pool hall in Newtown. O’Neil later moved to Jacksonville with relatives, where he attended Edward Waters College to complete high school and two years of college courses. He was nicknamed “Buck” after the co-owner of the Miami Giants, Buck O’Neal. His father, John Jordan O’Neil, Sr., played on a local team, thus exposing Buck to baseball at an early age.
O’Neil left Florida in 1934 to play semi-professional baseball, collecting several years of barnstorming experience. His efforts were rewarded when he signed with the Memphis Red Sox in 1937 and then joined the Kansas City Monarchs in 1938. O’Neil had a career batting average of .288 (based on statistics from 1937 to 1950), which included four seasons above .300, and he also played in three East-West All-Star Games and two Negro World Series.
Buck O’Neil served in the United States Navy in 1944 and 1945 during World War II. He served in a naval construction battalion in New Jersey during this time, and then returned to the Monarchs at the start of the 1946 season.
O’Neil was named manager for the Monarchs in 1948, continuing to play first base full time through the 1951 season. He continued to manage the Monarchs through 1955, serving as a reserve player and pinch-hitter during these later years, winning pennants in 1953 and 1955. Following the 1955 season, O’Neil resigned as manager of the Monarchs and became a scout for the Chicago Cubs. He was named the first black coach in the major leagues by the Cubs in 1962, though he was not assigned in-game base coaching duties. In 1988, O’Neil joined the Kansas City Royals as a scout, and in 1998 was named “Midwest Scout of the Year.”
In 1990, O’Neil played a major role in the establishment of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, and served as its honorary board chairman until his death. In 1996, O’Neil became the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree from the University of Missouri – Kansas City, and in 2006 he received an honorary doctorate in education from Missouri Western State University, where he also gave the commencement speech.
Also in 2006, O’Neil was nominated to a special Hall of Fame ballot for Negro League players, managers, and executives in 2006, but received fewer than the necessary nine votes (out of twelve) to gain admission. Nevertheless, the always good-natured O’Neil spoke at the induction ceremony for the seventeen Negro League players who did get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame that year.
After several weeks in the hospital, Buck O’Neil died on October 6, 2006 in Kansas City, Missouri due to heart failure and bone marrow cancer.
On December 7, 2006, O’Neil was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush due to his “excellence and determination both on and off the baseball field.” On Opening Day of 2007, the Kansas City Royals announced they would honor O’Neil by placing a fan in the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat in Kauffman Stadium each game who best exemplifies O’Neil’s spirit. The seat itself has been replaced by a red seat amidst the all-blue seats behind home plate.
In 2021, the Early Baseball Era Committee elected Buck O’Neil to the Baseball Hall of Fame with 81.3% of the vote. He was formally inducted on July 24, 2022.
Don’t shed any tears. You think about this. Here I am, the grandson of a slave. And here the whole world was excited about whether I was going into the Hall of Fame or not. We’ve come a long ways.
In case you missed it, a couple nights ago, the Bob Kendrick and the Negro Leagues Museum hosted a virtual panel featuring Ken Burns, Bob Costas, Joe Posnanski, and CC Sabathia. These gentlemen talked primarily about Buck O’Neil, telling stories about when they first met O’Neil and what he was like as a person. They also talked about Jackie Robinson, the Negro Leagues, the breaking of the color barrier in Major League Baseball, and blacks in baseball today.
A recording of the stream can be found on YouTube and is definitely worth a listen if you enjoy hearing stories about baseball.
I vaguely recall hearing a reference to Buck O’Neil’s thoughts on Ty Cobb at some point, but this might be the first time I’ve ever seen this interview. My hat’s off to Buck — I don’t think I could be nearly so forgiving and compassionate if it were me in his shoes. I’m so glad this man is finally going to be inducted in the Hall of Fame.
Results from the Hall of Fame Selection Ceremonies are in, and a total of six new members will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2022.
The Golden Days Era Committee voted in the following new members:
- Gil Hodges
- Jim Kaat
- Minnie Miñoso
- Tony Oliva
The Early Baseball Era Committee has elected the following new members:
- Bud Fowler
- Buck O’Neil
Congrats to these players and to their families!
From the Early Baseball Era Ballot, Buck O’Neil and Bud Fowler have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. pic.twitter.com/sNl8HNw510— MLB (@MLB) December 5, 2021
Mets, Brooklyn Dodgers legend Gil Hodges has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame:— SNY (@SNYtv) December 5, 2021
“It’s a great day for anyone who loves baseball” (via @AnthonyMcCarron) https://t.co/0eRSIN3RPG pic.twitter.com/QObet58njO
Right where he belongs.— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) December 5, 2021
The late Chicago White Sox legend Minnie Miñoso has been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Golden Days Era Committee! pic.twitter.com/v9X51TFp1r
BREAKING: #MNTwins greats Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame via Golden Days Era Committee decision. @MillerStrib has the story https://t.co/BUZ1ahSwpa pic.twitter.com/sc0hP80jBP— Star Tribune Sports (@StribSports) December 5, 2021
For anyone who is interested, this afternoon, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum will be live streaming the Hall of Fame Selection Ceremonies, beginning at 4:00 p.m. Central Time. The ceremonies will reveal results of the Early Baseball Era and Golden Days Era Committees vote, and of notable consideration for the Hall of Fame is the great Buck O’Neil.
The event will be streamed via NLBM’s Facebook here.
You can find additional information from the Kansas City Star here.
Buck O’Neil is on Hall of Fame Early Baseball Era ballot. Shown here with the KC Monarchs, he was grandson of a slave & became one of the great storytellers of the Negro Leagues. Later coached & scouted for @Cubs. Read more in @sabr BioProject https://t.co/30Dhq1qVB3 pic.twitter.com/gfeUPqBJpq— SABR BioProject (@SABRbioproject) December 4, 2021
Thanks as ever to @nlbmprez for his time and candor, and also appreciated further perspective from Negro Leagues historian Phil Dixon:— Vahe Gregorian (@vgregorian) December 3, 2021
Why the ‘one place to be on Sunday’ is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum https://t.co/6nbNKLQvKt
Tell a friend, especially if your friend is on the Early Baseball Era @BaseballHall committee –— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) December 4, 2021
An all-new 𝑩𝑳𝑨𝑪𝑲 𝑫𝑰𝑨𝑴𝑶𝑵𝑫𝑺 is out now wherever you get your podcasts, w/ @NLBMPrez & @JPosnanski on the HOF case for the GREAT Buck O’Neil:
🖱️ https://t.co/NT7vlUY2Ce pic.twitter.com/T7OC4NvDHy
Will the 2nd time be the charm for Buck O’Neil’s @baseballhall induction? @kcur reporter, @GregEchlin, recounts Buck’s bid 15 yrs after barely missing! @Royals @NLBMuseumKC @KCMO @QuintonLucasKC @VisitKC https://t.co/9ndMCUAyNb— Bob Kendrick (@nlbmprez) December 5, 2021
In case you missed the original livestream, the recording of the Negro Leagues Museum’s conversation about Buck O’Neil can still be watched on YouTube. The stories these gentlemen told about Buck were a joy to listen to, and they also had a great conversation about race and baseball in general. If you get the opportunity, it’s definitely worth your time.
If you need something to do on Friday, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum will be hosting a conversation between Bob Costas, Joe Posnanski, Bob Kendrick, and Ken Burns in celebration of the great Buck O’Neil. This Friday, November 13th would have been Buck’s 109th birthday, and it sounds like the plan is for this group of speakers to share their memories and stories about the man, the ballplayer, the legend.
TELLING TALES ABOUT BUCK! Join me, @KenBurns, Bob Costas & @JPosnanski this Friday as we share stories about the legendary Buck O’Neil on his 109th B-Day! Catch the conversation live on the NLBM’s @Facebook & @YouTube channel! @MLB @Royals @Sut_ESPN @MLBNetwork @vgregorian RT pic.twitter.com/08ZtbP9bwX— Bob Kendrick (@nlbmprez) November 10, 2020
Buck O’Neil is hailed as a legend, especially here in the Kansas City area. Not only was O’Neil a great ballplayer, but his achievements off the field were arguably even greater. He not only worked to spread interest in the Negro leagues, he also played a huge part in the establishment of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.