Other Free Encyclopedias » Famous Sports Stars » Baseball » Buck O'Neil Biography - Dreaming Big, O'neil As Manager, Scout, And First Black Coach, Remembering The Negro Leagues - SELECTED WRITINGS BY O'NEIL:

Buck O'Neil - Dreaming Big

played league monarchs negro

Growing up in the celery fields of Florida, John Jordan O'Neil, Jr. dreamed big. His father, a saw mill worker, played for local baseball teams and soon, young

Buck O'Neil

John took a liking to the game. He first played semi-professional baseball in 1923 with the Sarasota Tigers.

Although he was not allowed to attend Sarasota High School because he was black, he eventually obtained a high school diploma. Later, he earned a baseball and football scholarship to Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1934, he toured professionally with the Miami Giants, who named him Buck after one of the team's owners, Buck O'Neal.

O'Neil flitted between several teams in his early career, playing for the New York Tigers, Shreveport Acme Giants, Memphis Red Sox, and the barnstorming team Zulu Cannibal Giants between 1934 and 1937. The Negro American League's Memphis Red Sox signed him after seeing him play in Shreveport and paid him $100 a month.

In 1938, O'Neil finally rested with the Kansas City Monarchs, an elite team of the Negro Leagues, with whom he would stay as player and manager until 1955. O'Neil began with the Monarchs as a first baseman and became a consistent hitter with good extra-base power. The Monarchs won four consecutive Negro American League (NAL) pennants from 1939-42, and won against the Homestead Grays in the first World Series played between the NAL and the Negro National League. O'Neil made three appearances for the West squad in the East-West All-Star Classic in 1942, 1943, and 1949.

O'Neil took a two-year absence from baseball in 1943 to fight in World War II. Trained for the US Navy, he was shipped out to Subic Bay in the Philippines to work loading ships.

Returning to the Monarchs and to his superb performance as a first baseman and hitter, O'Neil led the 1946 NAL with a batting average of .353, leading his team to another pennant. He scored two home runs and a .333 average in the Black World Series against the Newark Eagles. That same year he married Memphis school teacher Ora Lee Owen.

In addition to the Monarchs, O'Neil played in winter leagues and on barnstorming teams throughout his career. He teamed with the legendary Satchel Paige to tour with Bob Feller's All-Stars, playing numerous exhibition games in the late 1940s. He played winter ball with Almendares in the Cuban League and with Obregon in the Mexican winter league. Overall in his career, O'Neil had a career batting average of .288 including four .300-plus seasons.

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