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Buck O’Neil, Negro League Baseball Legend, Dead At 94

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Buck O’Neil’s long love affair with baseball ended Friday, October 6 in a Kansas City, Missouri hospital.

Mr. O’Neil — player, manager, coach, scout, and good-will ambassador to the game — died at the age of 94.

Well known in baseball circles for his talent and wit, he became a national icon after being featured in Ken Burns tremendous Public Broadcasting System documentary Baseball in 1994.

Recently finding himself in the middle of a controversy over his failure to gain election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, Mr. O’Neil asked disappointed fans to “shed no tears for Old Buck.”

He told supporters that not being able to attend Sarasota High School and the University of Florida because of segregation had hurt. Not being elected to the Hall of Fame didn’t because at least he had a chance.

Winner of two Negro League batting titles during his playing career, Mr. O’Neil retired and led the Kansas City Monarchs to the pennant as a manager. For a while he was also a scout for the Chicago Cubs, whose famous signings included Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Ernie Banks.

His love for the game nurtured through childhood talks with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth of the famed New York Yankees “Murderers Row” of the 1920s. Mr. O’Neil was able to pass on his wisdom to modern day players, and with it, his respect for the game that had been his life.

Baseball is poorer today than it was yesterday.

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  • MCH

    I always think of Buck O’Neill’s great commentary on the first time he saw/heard Bo Jackson hit a home run.

    To paraphrase Buck: “I’ve only heard that sound three times in my life…three guys who hit a ball so hard it sounded like a rifle shot. First when Babe Ruth hit a home run, and then later Josh Gibson hitting a homer. And now with Bo Jackson, I thought, I heard that sound again.”

    And I’m guessing that although Buck may not see another game in this life, his love affair with baseball will be eternal…