Saturday, October 07, 2006

RIP Buck O'Neil (1911-2006)

John "Buck" O'Neil, former Negro League great, died yesterday in Kansas city. He was 94 years old.

The following information about Buck was taken from The Cub Reporter:

"O'Neil was born in Florida in 1911 and attended Edward Waters College in Jacksonville. He signed his first professional baseball contract in 1935, and toured with Syd Pollock's Ethopian Clowns. He joined the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League in 1937, and moved to the NAL Kansas City Monarchs in 1938. He played 1B for the Monarchs for many years (where he was a long-time teammate of the legendary Satchel Paige), helping the Monarchs win four-straight NAL pennants 1939-1942. O'Neil joined the U. S. Navy after the '42 season, and served three years as a Seabee in World War II, before returning to the Monarchs in 1946.

"O'Neil won the NAL batting title in 1946 while hitting .346, and played in the Negro League World Series that season as the Newark Eagles (champions of the Negro National League) led by Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, and Leon Day defeated the Monarchs in a hard-fought seven games to win the Negro Leagues championship.

"Buck was named player-manager of the Monarchs in 1948, and over the next eight years, helped develop many future major leaguers. "

Buck also had a connection to the Cubs. In Kansas City as the manager of the Monarchs, he helped to develop several future Cubs players, including Ernie Banks. In 1955, O'Neil was hired by the Cubs to be the first African-American scout in Major League Baseball. He became the first African-American coach in MLB for the Cubs in 1962 as part of the famed "College of Coaches."

This past summer, the Hall of Fame failed to induct Buck into the HOF. This seemed like an odd move to me. Buck was a top notch player in the Negro Leagues, helped develop several future major leaguers, won several championships as manager of the Monarchs, and did as much as anyone to bring notoriety and respect to the Negro League. Despite the HOF slight, O'Neil always remained upbeat and positive, and served as a prime example of a guy who loved the game of baseball.

Buck will be sorely missed, but always remembered.


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