Tuesday, February 28, 2006
My Post colleague Mike Vaccaro hits it perfectly today in taking the Baseball Hall of Fame to task in omitting Buck O'Neill off the list of what "will likely be the final Negro League additions to the Hall."
O'Neill is 95, but has the vitality of someone 25 years younger -- and that's not a joke. As with many baseball debates, it seems to come down to numbers and on-the-field accomplishments -- which apparently didn't reach HOF levels.
However, as Vaccaro discusses, one thing that can't be ignored is how he has become one of the greatest ambassadors of the game of baseball -- and the American spirit -- as one is likely to find. He tours the country incessantly and gives great lively speeches about the Negro Leagues, what is was like to play in them and displaying league memorabilia. And it goes beyond just what O'Neill displayed in Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary.
I heard the man speak a few years ago at the major annual dinner for the 100 Black Men organization. There is not a trace of bitterness within him. He has the most perfect balance of humility and pride that one can imagine.
He talks about his good fortune and how well life has treated him -- the grandson of a slave. O'Neill is a testament to America -- and to its national pastime.
If there's room for mascots and clowns in the Hall, there is certainly room for a Buck O'Neill.
UPDATE: Some great hometown coverage of the Kansas City Monarchs player's HOF slight. And a well-made case for Buck -- on pure baseball merits (playing and coaching) alone.
Tags: sports, Buck O'Neill, Negro Leagues, baseball Hall of Fame