KANSAS CITY, Mo. — We feel John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil’s presence in Kansas City, baseball, and beyond long since we’ve lost him.
This weekend, he's officially being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a celebration a long time coming.
“It’s overdue. It’s about time. I would definitely say that,” Kansas City Royals Chairman and CEO John Sherman said recently in an interview with KSHB 41.
Sherman says one of his early memories of O’Neil came from meeting him at Kauffman Stadium.
"One time out here in the parking lot years ago,” he said. “Interestingly my grandfather, who was a huge baseball fan, was the one that pointed him out to me. He knew his whole career. And of course, I’ve seen him and I’ve seen films of him and listened to him speak.”
“And I’m looking forward to this weekend and Cooperstown even though he won’t be there physically. It will be a great celebration of his legacy and I think it’s also great for Kansas City.”
You can already find Buck O'Neil's profile on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website.
His legacy lives on in baseball and beyond.
His career spanned decades, and included time as a player and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs. He later became the first Black coach in Major League Baseball as well as a tireless advocate for preserving the history of Negro Leagues Baseball and players. He helped found the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
“I think it’s one of our iconic cultural institutions in Kansas City,” Sherman said. “The story is so important to tell and I think Buck as one of the founders of that museum has really had a huge impact on memorializing that story and making sure that we tell it.”
“Institutionalizing that here in Kansas City but also for the nation and the world, that that story be told far and wide," Sherman said. "I think that is his greatest legacy for me."
O’Neil also served as a scout for the Kansas City Royals. His seat lives on as the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat, recognizing people making an impact in our community at each home game.
“We commemorate it every night,” he said. “That’s also about being in the spirit of Buck O’Neil. It’s also the best seat in the house. I mean, you know, particularly back in the day, the scouts had the best seats and now Buck’s seat is right there."
That spirit of Buck O’Neil? Grace and love.
“Shed no tears for me, man. This is Old Buck. God’s been good to me, you can see that, don’t you?” O’Neil said to a crowd at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in 2006 after narrowly missing getting voted in to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
He did, however, go to Cooperstown to speak for the 17 Negro Leagues legends who were inducted that year.
“A lot of people wouldn’t have spoken at that,” Sherman said. “Buck was a special guy.”
“It’s unbelievable how hard it is to get in to the Hall of Fame,” Sherman said.
The Royals franchise, he said, currently has two.
“We’ve got one player and one journalist,” he said. “Buck should have been in a long time ago but let’s not focus on that. Let’s go to Cooperstown and celebrate his legacy this weekend.”