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Celebrating & Remembering Buck O’Neil

Updated: Mar 22

Celebrating & Remembering Buck O’Neil

Buck O'Neil November 13, 1911 – October 6, 2006) was a first baseman/ manager in the Negro American League, mostly with the Kansas City Monarchs. After he stopped playing, he worked as a scout and became the first African American coach in Major League Baseball. In his later years, he became a popular and renowned speaker helping to renew widespread interest in the Negro leagues and played a major role in establishing the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

Buck O Neil lived a remarkable yet difficult life. He was discriminated against and treated badly, to say the least, yet he managed to remain humble without bitterness and a vengeful spirit. Buck like the rest of us was a sinner redeemed by Christ, he had feet of clay, but he sought the Lord and made all his life a mission field.

We would do well to emulate him!

In his Hall of Fame speech Buck O Neil said,

“And I tell you what, they always said to me Buck, “I know you hate people for what they did to you or what they did to your folks.” I said, “No, man, I — I never learned to hate.” I hate cancer. Cancer killed my mother. My wife died 10 years ago of cancer. (I’m single, ladies.) A good friend of mine — I hate AIDS. A good friend of mine died of AIDS three months ago. I hate AIDS. But I can’t hate a human being because my God never made anything ugly. Now, you can be ugly if you wanna, boy, but God didn’t make you that way. Uh, uh.

So, I want you to light this valley up this afternoon. Martin [Luther King] said “Agape” is understanding, and creative — a redemptive goodwill toward all men. Agape is an overflowing love that seeks nothing in return. And when you reach love on this level, you love all men, not because you like ’em, not because their ways appeal to you, but you love them because God loved them. And I love Jehovah my God with all my heart, with all my soul, and I love every one of you — as I love myself.”

In an interview with his biographer Joe Pananski - The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O Neils America Buck O'Neil's America, Buck offered these words of wisdom:

O’Neil said not to worry about the new millennium, and then offered these 16 pieces of advice for life:

▪ Hug everybody you can, especially the pretty women.

▪ Drain the bitterness out of your heart. My daddy was a good man. He paid his taxes. He lived a good life. But he couldn’t vote. He was not bitter, though. …

▪ Sing a little every day.

▪ Do yourself a favor: Go down to 18th and Vine just to see a bit of Kansas City history. It was exciting. Yeah. There were musicians and baseball players and beautiful women and men dressed up like you wouldn’t believe. Every restaurant, hotel, and bar had a band playing sweet music. Yeah. People ask me what it was like, I tell them this: A man would come to Kansas City and say, “I have a cousin here, but I don’t know where he is.” I would say “Well, you just stand right here on the corner of 18th and Vine, and before this day is over, he will show up.” Yeah. That was 18th and Vine.

▪ Don’t smoke any of those leaves or put anything up your nose.

▪ Tell people you love them.

▪ Listen to old people tell stories. They might teach you something.

▪ Do a little showboating every now and again in your life. Remember, it was the so-so ballplayers that came up with the word “Showboating.” They were jealous. If you have something to show, go ahead and showboat a little bit.

▪ Don’t be jealous of any other city. Kansas City is the greatest city on earth.

▪ Be there for old friends.

▪ Always be on time. There’s no use in being late.

▪ Don’t let anger boil up inside you. There’s too much anger out there already. Yeah. Too much anger.

Root for the Royals. They’re a good young team. They make you feel alive because they play so hard. That’s what baseball is all about.”

There is also a wonderful documentary: An Evening with John "Buck" O'Neil and his Memories of the Negro Baseball Leagues

Video from: PPLDTV

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