KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes’ father, Pat Sr., played 11 seasons in Major League Baseball.
The younger Mahomes has emerged as one of the fresh young faces of the NFL and one of the sport’s most-marketable stars.
But Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs’ starting quarterback, spoke Tuesday about his appreciation for those who laid the groundwork for his family’s athletic careers when asked for his thoughts on Buck O’Neil’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, an honor that was bestowed posthumously Dec. 5.
“All those guys that are in that Negro League Museum, they did not only great things for baseball, but for all sports,” Mahomes said. “It broke that color barrier. It got Black athletes into the top professional world, where they deserve to be at. Those guys are the reason that I’m standing here today, playing football and living out my dream.”
He called O’Neil’s election, which came 15 years after his death in October 2006, “overdue.’
“He (O’Neil) was such a great player, coach, scout — whatever he did,” Mahomes said. “It’s something that should have happened a long time ago, but I’m glad it finally happened.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame has presented the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award annually since 2008, but O’Neil — a 10-year Negro Leagues veteran, longtime scout for the Chicago Cubs and the first Black coach in MLB history — was denied official enshrinement during his lifetime.
O’Neil, who helped found the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District, rose to national prominence after appearing in Ken Burns’ documentary mini series “Baseball,” giving a national audience a peek into the unique treasure Kansas City had long known O’Neil to be.
Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu hopes O’Neil’s election to the Hall of Fame serves as an inspiration for a new generation of Black athletes.
“That’s a big honor,” Mathieu, who played baseball growing up in New Orleans, said. “That’s huge that the MLB finally came around to that decision. I’m hoping that it serves well for a lot of the young Black men that obviously think that it’s just football and basketball.”