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Buck O'Neil - Remembering The Negro Leagues

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Buck O'Neil became a member of the 18-person Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee of Cooperstown, New York, in 1981. With the intense desire to preserve the memory of the Negro Leagues, he raised money and co-founded the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City in 1990. For more than a decade, he has lectured about the history and accomplishments of the Negro Leagues around the country, at schools, at conferences, on radio programs, and on television.

O'Neil experienced a resurgence of popularity in 1994 with the release of Ken Burn's PBS documentary Baseball. O'Neil narrated the program's segment highlighting the Negro Leagues. After the show's airing, he appeared on national interviews and late night talk shows such as Late Night with David Letterman.

Bringing his memories and words to a new generation, the new celebrity published his autobiography in 1996, I Was Right on Time: My Journey from the Negro Leagues to the Majors, co-written with Sports Illustrated editors Steve Wulf and David Conrads. O'Neil continues to recommend Negro League players to the Baseball Hall of Fame and advocates pensions for surviving Negro League players.


1911 Born November 13 in Carrabelle, Florida
1923 Semi-professional with Sarasota Tigers
1930 Graduates from Edward Waters College
1934 Plays for Miami Giants
1935 Plays for New York Tigers
1936 Plays for Shreveport Acme Giants
1937 Plays for Memphis Red Sox
1937 Plays for Zulu Cannibal Giants
1938-43, 1946-55 Plays for Kansas City Monarchs
1943-45 Military service during Wold War II
1946 Marries Ora Lee Owen
1994 Narrator in Ken Burns' PBS documentary Baseball
1996 Publishes memoirs, I Was Right on Time

Awards and Accomplishments

1938 Started with Kansas City Monarchs
1939-42 Monarchs won four consecutive Negro American League pennants
1940 Won Negro League batting title with a .345 average
1942 Appearance in the West All-Star game
1942 First World Series played between the Negro American League and the Negro National League
1946 Led Negro National League with a .353 batting average
1947 Career best batting average of .358
1948-55 Named manager of Kansas City Monarchs
1950 Monarchs won the Western Divsion Championships
1951-54 Managed East-West all-star teams
1956 Signed with the Chicago Cubs as a scout
1962 First black coach hired by a major league
1981 Joined Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee
1988 Became scout for Kansas City Royals
1990 Co-founded Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City
1996 Received honorary degree from University of Missouri-Kansas City Bloch School of Business
1998 Named Midwest Scout of the Year
1999 Kansas State College Lifetime Leadership Award

The long-time Kansas City resident holds no resentment or bitterness about the past segregation and racism he encountered. O'Neil's ability to forgive is reflected in his warm smile and sense of humor. His intention is that the Negro League museum he co-founded be more about hope and progress than about inequality. An audio program, The Best of Buck, compiles twenty-three stories of baseball history in the Negro Leagues told by Buck O'Neil; proceeds go to museum.

At the age of eighty-nine, O'Neil said in an interview in Home and Away magazine, "I want the young people to know the wonderful changes that's happened in this country. I'm old enough to see these wonderful changes… This is what we're trying to do—teach every kid about the Negro Leagues and that era."

Career Statistics

Yr Team Avg GP AB H 2B 3B HRS B
KC: Kansas City Monarchs; MEM: Memphis Red Sox.
1937 MEM .091 3 11 1 0 0 0 0
1938 KC .258 27 89 23 5 2 1 7
1939 KC .257 30 101 26 7 2 2 3
1940 KC .345 30 113 39 5 3 1 6
1941 KC .239 23 88 21 3 2 0 3
1942 KC .247 182 45 6 1 1 0
1943 KC .222 99 22 1 1 2 1
1946 KC .350 58 197 69 1 1 2 1
1947 KC .358 46 162 58
1948 KC .253 42 162 41 6 1 1 3
1949 KC .330 45 109 36
1950 KC .253 31 83 21 5 2 1 5
TOTAL .288 335 1396 402 39 15 11 29
Buck O'Neil - Chronology [next] [back] Buck O'Neil - O'neil As Manager, Scout, And First Black Coach

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