KANSAS CITY, Mo — A crowd of fans and baseball enthusiasts gathered at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Sunday to watch local legend Buck O’Neil get inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
O’Neil and the late Horace Peterson co-founded and established the NLBM in 1990. It is the only museum in the world dedicate to preserving and celebrating the history of African American baseball and its impact on America’s social progress.
"It’s a dream come true for all the players that should be there that aren’t there, and probably won’t get there,” Terry Ellett, whose father was close to O’Neil, said during the watch party. “He is here. He will always be here.”
Raymond Doswell, vice president and curator of the museum, says he remembers the disappointment 15 years-ago when his friend and mentor was passed over for induction into the Hall of Fame.
“Many of us remember it well — the heartbreak of him not getting in. We know that he was heartbroken as well,” Doswell said. “Today is a day of reconciliation and a day of celebration.”
Sunday’s recognition feels bittersweet without O’Neil, but Doswell has dedicated decades to making sure Buck’s legacy is not forgotten. His work led to meaningful education about baseball, race relations and African American history in Kansas City.
“It allows us to connect, especially in this moment in our county, an understanding of what it means to talk about race in a constructive way. And also a means to be able to talk through love,” Doswell said.
Doswell believes how people felt about Ol’ Buck goes beyond baseball. He is especially touched by young people who walk through their doors to learn about him.
Five-year-old Sawyer Schoffstall may never get to meet his favorite player, but through history lesson from his grandmother, the impact is starting to click.
“Buck O’Neil… he’s a pretty big legend,” Sawyer said. “I like the Monarchs because all of the those who are Monarchs out there, are all legends from the museum stadium.”
Grandmother Sandy Schoffstall says her grandson comes from a big baseball family and his love for the game as well as Buck started when he was two.
“When he developed this love for Buck O’Neil, then we started coming down here to the museum and just taking it all in,” Schoffstall said. “I particularly like the bond that we can share because of it.”
Though he is only 5-years-old, she believes he understands the importance of what happened Sunday.
“It just does my heart good,” Schoffstall said.