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The Buck Stopped Here

John Jordan O'Neil Jr better known as "Buck" O'Neil was an African-American baseball player during segregation and was a prominent player in the Negro League. He played on the Kansas City Monarchs delighting fans in the 30s, 40s, and 50s with only an interruption during WWII where he served his country in the Navy. He went on to be a scout and manager up through the 80s making his mark on the sport in so many ways.

He was always willing to sign autographs and talk to people

In 1990, O'Neil (now in his 80s) led the effort to establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) in Kansas City. A few years later he was interviewed by Ken Burns for a piece on the history of baseball where he recounted his experiences in the Negro League. It was through this that many people came to learn about this living legend, myself included.

Throughout my teenage years and twenties Buck was seen as a representation of the best Kansas City had to offer. Even in my house with it's views that had racist undertones he was seen as a man of honor. In 2006 when he was 94 years old Buck came to KCTV5 where I was working as a production assistant. I was blessed with meeting lots of sports and local icons through that gig but the arrival of Buck O'Neil was the highlight. You could sense the energy in the building as everyone was anxious to meet and talk to the legend.

He "played" a game with the T-Bones at age 94!

My interaction was brief while miking him up but the few minutes I talked with him have forever stay with me. He was humble and kind, patient and well spoken and remarkably spry for a man of his years not to mention well dressed. I fanboyed a little and even got him to autograph a ball I brought with me (still a prized possession). We were sad to see him go and later that day saw his in a parade float (remember he was 94!)

Ribbon cutting for the Negro League Museum

Later that same year he died of heart failure and the city mourned the loss of our greatest advocate. I wasn't able to attend the funeral but have visited his memorial many times even incorporating it into one of my favorite geocache placements. Buck loved Kansas City and Kansas City loved Buck.


5/3/2021

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