More than 15 after his passing, Kansas City baseball icon Buck O’Neil is now in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Early Baseball Era Committee voted to enshrine John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil, Kansas City and Negro League baseball legend, in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The committee righted a 15-year-old wrong, which saw Buck O’Neil not amongst 17 Negro League players selected for the Hall in 2006.
Ten players were on the Early Baseball Era Committee ballot, with O’Neil and Bud Fowler receiving the required 12 votes. Fowler is often recognized as the first professional Black baseball player.
O’Neil’s induction recognizes his decades of work in and around baseball. He played several years in the Negro American League, most notably for the Kansas City Monarchs. O’Neil appeared in three All-Star Games and two Negro World Series games. He played for the Monarchs from 1938-1955, with a two year hiatus due to his naval service during World War II.
Following his playing career, O’Neil managed the Monarchs, leading his team to two league titles and a shared title. He later served as a scout for the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals, where his work landed him in the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame. Also, his coaching role with the Cubs made him the first Black coach in the American or National Leagues.
Arguably O’Neil’s greatest contribution came with helping establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. He served as chairman of the museum until his death in 2006 at age 94.
In 2006, O’Neil was not selected for the Hall of Fame, despite 17 others gaining the distinction in a special vote. Through his deep connection with Kansas City, his fans turned into advocates very quickly. After the announcement in 2006, O’Neil presented what mattered most about those 17 people inducted.
“I’ve been a lot of places,” O’Neil said. “I’ve done a lot of things I really liked doing … but I’d rather be right here, right now, representing the people who helped build a bridge across the chasm of prejudice.”
His work with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum arguably represented that sentiment the most. The museum hosted a watch party on Sunday, with fans, Kansas City baseball greats, and local leaders present. The celebration following the induction announcement led to many embraces, more cheers, and more than one tear shed.
“It is a lot of jubilation,” Negro Leagues Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick said. “We had a tremendous gathering of folks who came out to hang out with us today. … There’s a lot of relief, obviously. We’re thrilled that Bud Fowler has gotten the call. And as you can imagine, we’re just ecstatic that our very own Buck O’Neil is now taking his rightful place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.”
O’Neil, along with other the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 members, will be inducted July 24, 2022, induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y.