How Buck O'Neil's legacy remains present in Kansas City

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Posted at 7:30 PM, Mar 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-28 14:33:57-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Whether you're old or new to the City of Fountains, you probably know the impact of Buck O'Neil's legacy in Kansas City.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick shared the influence Buck O'Neil had on the city and the sport of baseball.

"He taught us about these heroes of the Negro leagues. He taught us and demonstrated to us that you could get further in life with love than you could with hate," Kendrick said. "And Buck was charming, he was dapper, he was witty, kind, gentle and I think he endeared himself in so many people."

Kendrick said O'Neil was a "glass-half-full" kind of guy.

"If you were going to describe Buck, number one, I think he was one of the great teachers of all time, even though he wasn't a teacher by trade," Kendrick said.

He said most of the people who fell in love with O'Neil never actually saw him play the sport.

"No, we fell in love again with Buck O'Neil who told us about the heroes of the Negro Leagues and lived his life in such a way that he demonstrated to us again that love overcomes hate. And that's the Buck we fell in love with," Kendrick said. "I tell people all the time, Buck had that same innateness that a Dr. King had, that a Mother Teresa had. You know, they couldn't hit the curve ball — Buck hit curve balls — and so he had that same kind of loving innateness that allowed him to love unassumingly, to just relate to people on all levels on all walks of life."

Today, O'Neil is still omnipresent throughout Kansas City. At Kauffman Stadium in 2007 the Royals honored him with the Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat.

"When Buck passed away, everyone was so concerned about what would happen with the seat," Kendrick said. "He sat in that seat for years as a scout, but primarily as an ambassador of the game and so when he passed away, people were wondering, well, 'What will the Royals do with that seat?'"

Some wanted it memorialized, others wanted it to go home to the Negro League Baseball Museum, Kendrick said the Royals president had a different vision in mind.

"Dan Glass came up with a brilliant idea to recognize ordinary people who do extraordinary things to help other people, and they do it unassumingly. That is Buck O'Neil," Kendrick said. "And then allow for him to sit in Buck's seat? Brilliant. It was the absolute best way to perpetuate the legacy of Buck O'Neil and that seat was too good, Buck would not want that seat to be empty!"

Kendrick said it's great for people who embody O'Neil's spirit to get an opportunity to sit in his seat.

Kendrick said every Royals opening day was similar to nirvana for O'Neil.

"There are so many stories that so many ball players still share with Buck hanging around the batting cage, just talking up all the guys and not just the home guys, but even the opposing guys," Kendrick said. "Opening day was always important for him. It's important for the Negro Leagues Museum. And he looked so much forward to being out in the K and again the spirit is there, whoever sits in Buck's seat on opening day, carries that Buck O'Neil spirit with them and that's the beautiful thing about it."

To learn more about the Buck O'Neil legacy program seat, click here.