The next Negro Leagues legend I wanted to profile wasn’t necessarily the greatest in terms of on-field performances, but definitely one of the most beloved figures, all-time good guy Buck O’Neil:
Every once in a while you have a sports figure who comes along and
leaves a mark so huge ASIDE from their on-field resume, and Buck was
just one of those guys.
By NO means a “common-player” during his 17-year playing career, O’Neil
batted a career .288 by some accounts, almost all of it with the Kansas
City Monarchs for which he is so historically connected to.
He also managed the Monarchs for eight seasons between 1948 and 1955,
leading them to two league titles, with a shared title one other season
when there was no playoff.
After his managerial tenure, he became a scout for the Chicago Cubs ,
and thus began a relationship with the Major Leagues that included
becoming the first African-American coach in MLB history in 1962, while
also becoming a central figure in establishing a Negro leagues Baseball
Museum in Kansas City, for which he served on it’s honorary board until
Of course, O’Neil was brought to EVERYONE’S attention with his awesome
recollections of the Negro Leagues in the Ken Burn’s “Baseball”
documentary, and soon after became a frequent speaker on behalf of the
history of the Negro Baseball Leagues.
I love the quip he had about “Cool Papa” Bell, when someone asked him,
“So how fast was “Cool Papa” Bell?”, and he’d instantly answer back,
“Quicker than that!”.
Sadly, his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame eluded him, but
hopefully he’ll find his place among the other Negro League greats that
reside there soon enough. It’s just a shame it didn’t happen while he
was still alive.
Would have been great to see that smile up there on that podium in Cooperstown as a “Hall of Famer”!