COOPERSTOWN, NY. — On the day before his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Kansas City Royals hosted a special brunch to honor Buck O’Neil.
As time ticked down before the induction, Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said not having O'Neil present triggered mixed-emotions.
“It’s bittersweet. We wish old Buck was here, but his spirit will be here. It is here," Kendrick said.
Former Kansas City Star writer and author Joe Posnanski agreed that O'Neil's spirit would still be felt.
“We all wanted him to be here to sing and tell the stories and everything else, but his spirit is so much," Posnanski said. "That’s one thing that I’ve felt already.”
It was a family affair. The son of fellow Negro Leaguer Minnie Miñoso was also in attendance.
“Both my parents have the best memories of visiting the White House with Buck before he passed,” Miñoso said. “Dad’s time playing in the Negro Leagues was pivotal and special. I’m so glad that this celebration of Black excellence is on full display this weekend.”
O'Neil's niece, Dr. Angela Terry, will deliver an induction speech on behalf of her uncle.
"This was a very difficult one to write. You can hear it in my voice now," Terry said.
Royals owner John Sherman said O'Neil's induction will be an important day for baseball as a whole.
“I think it’s a great day for baseball," Sherman said. "A great day for Buck O’Neil. A great day for Bob Kendrick and a great day for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum."
Kendrick said O'Neil being inducted in 2022 is perfect timing.
“It is almost fateful that it happens in 2022. Buck’s number was 22," he said.
Lynn Novick traveled from New York to Kansas City to interview O’Neil.
Novick said the meeting was very powerful.
“[I] Wanted to honor Buck and what he meant in my life, and what he would mean in our life," Novick said. "So, my son shares the same middle name as Buck. My son is James Jordan Novick-Smith. He showed tremendous generosity, kindness and interest in this little boy.”
Novick-Smith is all grown up now, and now understands O'Neil's legacy even more.
“I’m happy that he’ll be recognized among the greats, as he should be, as a legend, because he is," Novick-Smith said.
Legendary broadcaster Bob Costas took the time to remember covering O'Neil.
“Buck’s personality was luminous," Costas said. "If you didn’t know who he was and he walked in this room, you would feel his presence. "Think the feeling is partly regret over the fact that he is not here. But his spirit is most certainly here.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is going to bring Buck O’Neil’s plaque to both the NLBM and Kauffman Stadium in KC. The timeline is still being worked out for that.