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    Made in America...
     

    The Light that was Buck O'Neil

    Born in rural Carrabelle, Florida, O'Neil was initially denied the opportunity to attend high school due to racial segregation; at the time, Florida had only four high schools specifically for African Americans. However, after working a summer in a celery field with his father, O'Neil left home to live with relatives and attend Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, where he completed high school and two years of college courses. He left Florida in 1934 for several years of semi-professional "barnstorming" experiences (playing interracial exhibition games)[1], where one of his teammates was the legendary Satchel Paige. The effort paid off, and in 1937, O'Neil signed with the Memphis Red Sox for their first year of play in the newly-formed Negro American League. His contract was sold to the Monarchs the following year.

    O'Neil had a 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 in three different seasons and two Negro League World Series.

    A World War II tour in the U.S. Navy from 1943–1945 briefly interrupted his playing career.

    O'Neil was named manager of the Monarchs in 1948 after Frank Duncan's retirement, and continued to play first base as well as a regular through 1951, dropping to part time status afterward. He managed the Monarchs from 1948 through 1954 during the declining years of the Negro Leagues, winning two and a half league titles during that time.





    Buck talks about Jackie Robinson

    O'Neil left the Monarchs after the 1954 season, and in 1955 became a scout for the Chicago Cubs. He was named the first black coach in the major leagues by the Cubs in 1962 and is credited for signing Hall of Fame player Lou Brock to his first contract. O'Neil is sometimes incorrectly credited with also having signed Hall of Famer Ernie Banks to his first contract; Banks was originally scouted and signed to the Monarchs by Cool Papa Bell, then manager of the Monarchs' barnstorming B team in 1949. Banks played for the Monarchs briefly in 1950 and again in 1953 when O'Neil was his manager, and was signed to play for the Cubs more than two years before O'Neil joined them as a scout.

    After many years with the Cubs, O'Neil became a Kansas City Royals scout in 1988, and was named "Midwest Scout of the Year" in 1998.

    O'Neil gained national prominence with his compelling narration of the Negro Leagues as part of Ken Burns' 1994 PBS documentary on baseball. Afterwards, he became the subject of countless national interviews, including appearances on Late Night with David Letterman and the Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder.

    In 1990, O'Neil led the effort to establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) in Kansas City, and served as its honorary board chairman until his death.


    Buck remembers

    The Forgotten Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander 

    On May 13, 2006, he received an honorary doctorate in education from Missouri Western State University where he also gave the commencement speech.



    [edit] "If I'm a Hall of Famer for you, that's all right with me." O'Neil was a member of the 18-member Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee from 1981 to 2000 and played an important role in the induction of six Negro League players from 1995-2001 during the time the Hall had a policy of inducting one Negro Leaguer per year. O'Neil was nominated to a special Hall ballot for Negro League players, managers, and executives in 2006, but received fewer than the necessary nine votes (out of twelve) to gain admission; however, 17 other Negro League figures were selected.

    After hearing that he had not been elected to the Hall at age 94, O'Neil spoke to about 200 well-wishers who had gathered to celebrate, but instead stood hushed and solemn, telling the crowd:

    God's been good to me. They didn't think Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. That's the way they thought about it and that's the way it is, so we're going to live with that. Now, if I'm a Hall of Famer for you, that's all right with me. Just keep loving old Buck. Don't weep for Buck. No, man, be happy, be thankful.[


    Buck talks about...

     The Great Rube Foster

    Just before the Hall of Fame ceremonies, O'Neil signed a contract with the Kansas City T-Bones on July 18 to allow him to play in the Northern League All-Star Game. Before the game, O'Neil was "traded" to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and was listed as the starting shortstop, although after drawing an intentional walk, he was replaced before actually playing in the field. At the end of the inning, another "trade" was announced that brought O'Neil back to the Kansas City team, allowing him to lead off the bottom of the inning as well (drawing another intentional walk).

    The T-Bones originally claimed that O'Neil, at age 94 years, 8 months, and 5 days, would be by far the oldest person to appear in a professional baseball game (surpassing 83-year-old Jim Eriote who had struck out in another Northern League game just a week earlier).[3][4] However, that claim was in error, as the Schaumburg Flyers of the Northern League had signed Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe to a one-game contract and allowed him to face one batter on June 19, 1999 when he was 96 years old.[5] While O'Neil was the second-oldest pro player, the claim was amended that he would be the oldest person to make a plate appearance in a professional baseball game.


    Buck O'Neill sings the Great American Song

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