KANSAS CITY, MO — The time has finally come for the legendary Buck O’Neil.
O'Neil was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday night.
“It’s monumental, it’s monumental,” Bob Kendrick, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM), said.
The announcement was 15 years in the making according to Kendrick.
“You know what this means to all of his leagues of fans who have been with him every step of the way. You would have thought they would have grown tired 15 years later they were just as vigilant that Buck O’Neil belonged in the Hall of Fame as the day that I delivered the news and let them know that he didn’t get it,” Kendrick said.
Now fans who have wanted to see O'Neil's legacy cemented in the National Baseball Hall of Fame can feel a sense of a relief, pride and joy.
“He was a great baseball player, he was a great baseball mind, he was a great baseball student — and so those things will be talked about — but his legacy lives on through this museum, and through the life lessons of the Negro Leagues that are still having an impact," Kendrick said. "Buck O’Neil so beautifully and vividly demonstrated to all of us that you can get further in this life with love than you can with hate. That's the Buck O’Neil that we fell in love with. It’s those life lessons that stem from Buck that make this museum this much more valuable, but also make his legacy that much more enriching.
Kendrick said the NLBM will work to carry on O'Neil's legacy on and off the field.
“Buck O’Neil's induction into the National Museum of the Hall of Fame will be one of the most significant things to ever happen to this museum. I hope that we see that same level of galvanization around this great museum, and his spirit will guide this entire process truthful as it has since he left us,” Kendrick said.
Jackson County Executive Frank White said as a former African American baseball player, he hopes this will inspire other young ball players of color to get their head in the game.
“For the African Americans playing in baseball today, when I was playing, when Joe was playing, it was probably 27% and now it’s down below 5% and you don’t have a lot of representation on teams now with African American players," White said. "Hopefully this will inspire some of our young players to get back into baseball to carry on that legacy of African Americans in the game. I think Buck really being in the Negro Leagues doesn’t get any better for African American ball players, and I think he opened up a big door for guys who want to get back in the game. I think it’s there and guys just really want to have to dedicate themselves.”
White also added that although fans waited 15 years for this announcement, it’s a sign that baseball is changing for the better.
“It just gives us hope that baseball is making an effort to change. Baseball is making an effort to say, 'maybe we missed someone, maybe we need to change some things,' I think that Buck being inducted today, at the end of the day, just gives everybody that hope” White said.
The NLBM said preparing to celebrate the announcement in Kansas City through more ways than one.
“Now we are working on the Buck O’Neil Center, and with this excitement about him being inducted into the Hall of Fame, who knows what’s in store, but we are prepared and ready for all of the additional support," Kristen Harris, a member of the NLBM Board of Directors said.
Moving forward after Sunday's momentous announcement, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum said the legacy of Buck O’Neil will continue to live on.
“It’s a huge year for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, thank you Buck,” Kendrick said.