NLBM Panel: A Tribute To Buck O’Neil

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.


Buck O’Neil on Ty Cobb

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.


Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2022

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!

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Hall of Fame Selection Ceremonies

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.

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NLBM: Celebrating Buck O’Neil

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.


Remembering Buck O’Neil, NLBM livestream

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.

The even will begin at 12:30 pm Central Time on Friday. It can be streamed via NLBM’s YouTube page or their Facebook page.

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“(Give it Up For) Buck O’Neil,” Bob Walkenhorst

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.


Quote of the day

Depending on how he gripped the ball and how hard he threw it, Satchel Paige had pitches that included the bat-dodger, the two-hump blooper, the four-day creeper, the dipsy-do, the Little Tom, the Long Tom, the bee ball, the wobbly ball, the hurry-up ball and the nothin’ ball.

~Buck O’Neil

Buck O'Neil

Wikipedia


Pride and Perseverance

This weekend I watched a short documentary produced by Major League Baseball,  Pride and Perseverance: The Story of the Negro Leagues.  While the time period covered in the documentary spans from Moses Fleetwood Walker playing major league ball in the 1880s on up to the induction of Negro League players into the Baseball Hall of Fame starting in 1971, the documentary focuses primarily on the story of the Negro Leagues.Pride and Perseverance

Dave Winfield narrates the documentary, and it includes footage from Negro League games, as well as some Major League games.  It also features interviews with Negro Leagues players, including Buck O’Neil, Bob Mitchell, Willie Mays, John “Mule” Miles, Cool Papa Bell, and Ted Radcliffe.  The interviews highlight just how good many Negro Leagues players really were, especially compared to white Major Leaguers, and it’s a lot of fun to see how much these guys light up when they talk about the level of talent.

The documentary touches on the racial struggles faced by black players.  For example, many players accepted the fact that they would have to go around to the backs of restaurants to get food, and it was not uncommon to sleep on the bus because the hotels in a given town would not give them rooms.  Nevertheless, the players talk about how much fun they had traveling and playing ball.  The eventual recruitment of Jackie Robinson by Branch Rickey to break the color barrier, of course, receives due attention.

Overall, Pride and Perseverance is a fantastic overview of the history of the Negro Leagues.  For a documentary that runs less than an hour long, it manages to cram a lot of interesting information into the film.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

 

 


Ken Burns’s Baseball: The Ninth Inning

9th inning

After a long hiatus, due to having to return the series to the library and wait for others to finish their turns with it before having my chance at checking it out again, I have finally made it back around to watching the Ninth Inning of Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns.  This installment in the series covers the time period from 1970 to 1993, the ending representing present day at the time, as the series was originally released in 1994.

The Ninth Inning opens with a baseball game being played between a pair of Dominican teams.  A couple players from one of the teams give interviews expressing the importance of baseball to the Dominican culture.  “It’s like a religion,” one player says.  “There’s never been a revolution or war during baseball season.”  Historian Manuel Marquez-Sterling compares baseball to the opera, insisting the two are essentially the same kind of thing.

On this disc we learn about Brooks Robinson leading the Orioles to the 1970 World Series championship against Pete Rose and the Cincinnati Reds.  In 1971, the Orioles found themselves on the losing side of the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Roberto Clemente of the Pirates made a name for himself during this period.  He was an icon for both the black community and for the Puerto Rican community, and he gave back to society as much as he could.  On New Years Eve of 1971, however, Clemente’s plane crashed in an effort to bring relief supplies to Nicaragua following an earthquake.

Baseball’s reserve clause met its end during this time period.  Curt Flood’s battle in the courts against the clause at the start of the decade came away largely fruitless, though it did serve to bring the issue into the public spotlight.  In 1975, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, with the help of Marvin Miller, took on the reserve clause by claiming free agency.  In the end, the reserve clause was abolished and players were now eligible for free agency after six years.  This, as we see through today, resulted in an explosion of baseball salaries.  The collusion of baseball owners in the late-1980s threatened this newfound free agent market, in much the same way owners once had observed the “gentleman’s agreement” to never sign a black player.  This collusion, however, would soon get exposed and would cost the owners a considerable sum.

The treatment of both Roberto Clemente and Curt Flood highlighted the points made by Jackie Robinson shortly before his death.  Certainly, as Buck O’Neil mentions, a lot changed in baseball, and in American society, as a result of Robinson’s role in breaking the color barrier.  Nevertheless, baseball still had a long way to go in terms of racial equality.  Henry Aaron knew all about this reality, playing for the Braves and chasing Babe Ruth’s lifetime home run record.  The hate mail sent to Aaron, some of which gets read in this episode, sends chills down my spine.  In 1974, Hank Aaron did break Ruth’s record, and deservedly so.  The 1987 interview of Al Campanis regarding the reasons behind a lack of blacks in baseball management drove home the existence of the persisting prejudice.

The Oakland A’s of the 1970s drew attention, not only due to their excellent performance, but also due to the appearance of their players.  Players were given bonuses to grow their hair out, and many went on to sport some quite interesting facial hair.  Catfish Hunter’s pitching for Oakland was stellar, almost unfair in the eyes of some hitters, who noticed the strike zone seemed to grow larger whenever Hunter took the mound.

The Cincinnati Reds returned to the World Series in 1975, this time against the Boston Red Sox.  Not only did the Reds have Pete Rose on their roster, but also boasted of names like Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey, and Joe Morgan.  Game 6 of this Series proved one for the history books, featuring Carlton Fisk’s dramatic walk-off home run for Boston in the twelfth inning to tie the Series at three.  Cincinnati would win the Series, however, in Game 7.  As a side note, I particularly enjoyed the various stories told by pitcher Bill Lee on this disc.  The man was certainly a character.  He speaks candidly and hilariously about his own experiences, blunders, and shortcomings, and his wild gesturing made it just as fun to watch him speak as it was to listen.

The 1970s saw the rise of George Steinbrenner as owner of the New York Yankees.  Free agency worked in Steinbrenner’s favor, and he spent freely to build a winning organization.  Though they lost the 1976 World Series, they won it in 1977 and 1978, led by Reggie Jackson.  Steinbrenner became notorious for running through managers like a child runs through fads, bolstering his reputation for trying to buy his way to championships.

The 1979 Series featured Willie Stargell and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and then in 1980, the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Kansas City Royals, led by Pete Rose, who had signed with them after becoming a free agent.  Rose would return to the Reds later in his career.  Nolan Ryan also took advantage of free agency, dominating from the pitcher’s mound with multiple teams.  After the collusion among the owners was busted up, baseball contracts exploded, and player after player made headlines as the newest highest paid player.

After this point, the documentary ceased to cover every single World Series championship, but rather focused on the ones that would be deemed “most popular” in baseball history.  The 1986 World Series saw a continuation of the Curse of the Bambino.  The Boston Red Sox lost the Series in a stunning fashion to the New York Mets.  After giving up what seemed like a sure victory in Game 6, the Red Sox also lost Game 7.  The 1988 World Series went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, a championship victory that included the unbelievable tale of Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 in spite of his injuries.

In August 1989, Pete Rose was banished from baseball.  Bart Giamatti gave the announcement in a press conference, stating that Rose’s involvement in gambling had hurt the game, and that the game must be held to the highest standards.  In spite of a depressing end to the 1980s, and in spite of all the scandals and other struggles in baseball, John Thorn and Buck O’Neil exalt the continuing survivalist spirit of baseball.  Admittedly, the timing of these statement is a bit ironic, considering that the next World Series after this documentary was released, the 1994 Series, did not get played due to the players’ strike.  In spite of that, baseball did come back, and I’d say the fact that so many baseball blogs, such as this one, exist is a testament to the continuing love and wonder that baseball brings.