Celebrity Deaths ›

Buck O'Neil Loved Baseball

Getty Images / Kidwiler Collection / Diamond Images

Buck O'Neil Loved Baseball

Baseball legend Buck O'Neil would have been 100 years old today. He may not have been quite as well known as Jackie Robinson, but he was every bit as much of a barrier-smasher.

O'Neil began his professional baseball career in 1937 with the Negro American League's Memphis Red Sox, but soon was traded to the Kansas City Monarchs. He would spend nearly two decades with K.C., serving as their longtime first baseman and then later as coach. After the Monarchs were sold in 1955, O'Neil became a scout for the Chicago Cubs. When he was promoted to Cubs coach in 1962, he made history, becoming the first black person to coach Major League Baseball, echoing Jackie Robinson's history-making move to the Majors just 15 years earlier.

Years later in an interview, O'Neil would speak of the elation he and his Monarchs felt when they heard of Robinson's groundbreaking contract with the Dodgers in 1947.
 

 

 

O'Neil remained with the Cubs until 1988, when he moved on to the Kansas City Royals. He became a favorite subject of interviews and was often asked to give speeches – like at the commencement at Missouri Western State University, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate. It must have been an especially sweet moment for a man who, despite his many achievements, didn't complete college.
 

 

 

 

 

O'Neil could spin a great yarn about his days in the Negro Leagues and the majors. He loved the game, and it showed. Just try not to crack a smile while you watch him sing the unofficial anthem of America's pastime.
 

 

 

 

 

Since his death just over five years ago, more than 1,000 people have signed the online guest book for Buck O’Neil, remembering his contributions to baseball – and paying tribute to his kindness and integrity.

A great man who touched many people and will always be remembered.

Buck you were an inspiration too all. A true great American. As a young Black American I am proud to have shared a heritage with a man of such great integrity.

Buck, Thank you for what you taught me. Your energy, your attitude, your kindness will always be with me. Whenever you walked into a room the room lit up and people felt better. You were right on time but your time here was too short.

Baseball and Kansas City have lost their greatest ambassador, and Humanity has lost one of the greatest all-around good guys it will ever know.

---

Written by Linnea Crowther