John “Buck” O’Neil

Baseball season is just around the corner (spring training begins this week…. GO WHITE SOX!!!).  For black history month, I’d focus on one of baseball’s unsung heroes of both major league baseball and of the Negro leagues.

John “Buck” O’Neil was a Negro league First Baseman and manager of the Kansas City Monarchs.  As a manager of the Kansas City Monarchs he was responsible for nearly 3 dozen baseball players going to the major leagues.

In 1955 O’Neil resigned as Monarchs manager and became a scout for the Chicago Cubs.  In 1962 became the first black coach in the major leagues with the Cubs, coaching future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Lou Brock. In 1988, Buck returned to Kansas City as a scout for the Kansas City Royals.

In addition to scouting, Buck served on the Veterans’ Committee at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Buck O’Neil was the Chairman of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City an organization he helped established.  He served as chairman until his death in October 2006, at the age of 94.

On December 7, 2006, O’Neil was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush; the award was given to his brother, Warren, on his behalf on December 15. He was chosen due to his “excellence and determination both on and off the baseball field,” according to the White House news release. He joins such sports notables as Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, and Jack Nicklaus in receiving the United States’ highest civilian honor.

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~ by daroldingram on February 25, 2010.

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