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Hall Honors O'Neil At Last

10/25/2007 11:53 AM -

The Kansas City T-Bones heartily congratulate baseball and Kansas City legend John “Buck” O’Neil who will be properly honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame as announced late Wednesday before Game 1 of the World Series.

The T-Bones had a close relationship with Buck O’Neil, including him in the 2006 Northern League All-Star Game where he had an official plate appearance for each division before being removed for pinch runners.  O’Neil was also the keynote speaker in ’06 for the All-Star Luncheon.  He also made numerous trips to CommunityAmerica Ballpark, where is number is proudly displayed and retired on the left field wall.  O’Neil and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum drew several comparisons to the Northern League and the Negro Leagues, tabbed as the original independent league.

"The Northern League has long had a special affinity for O'Neil and the NLBM, as the Negro Leagues were the original pioneers of independent baseball,” said Adam Ehlert, T-Bones vice president.  “We're especially proud, here in Kansas City, that the museum is the official charity of the Northern League."

O’Neil played, managed and coached in the Negro Leagues before becoming Major League Baseball’s first African-American coach when the Cubs hired him in 1962.  He was also a highly respected Major League scout and most recently one of baseball all-time best ambassadors; largely responsible for the creation and success of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I’m not sure there was a better way to honor Buck there,” said Bob Kendrick the Negro Leagues Museum marketing director.  “Buck loved the Hall of Fame, and to know his presence is going to be there as a welcome to visitors who come to Cooperstown is very meaningful to us as I’m sure it is to baseball fans all over the world.  We couldn’t be prouder.”

Buck was left out of the class of 17 Negro Leaguers inducted into Cooperstown in 2006 however he did serve as the keynote speaker at that induction ceremony.  Shortly after that a nationwide outcry of support for Buck and disappointment in the Hall of Fame ensued.  O’Neil passed away nearly three months after at age 94.

The T-Bones and their fans were active in efforts to get Buck recognized by the Hall of Fame.  In that effort, the T-Bones accumulated 50,000 signatures on a petition and created t-shirts in support of the Negro Leagues icon.  T-Bones general manager Rick Muntean personally drove the petitions from Kansas City to Cooperstown, New York to hand deliver the petition to the hall.

The Hall of Fame has promised to honor Buck with a life-size bronze statue and an award named in his honor.  The Hall of Fame reports that the statue will be placed in a prominent place in the Museum with two plaques to educate museum visitors about O’Neil’s contributions to the game and to list the recipients of the award.  The Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award will honor individuals whose extraordinary efforts to enhance baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to Buck O’Neil’s.

“The Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is thrilled to honor Buck O’Neil as the first recipient of this award, named after him,” said Jane Forbes Clark, chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  “Buck touched every facet of baseball, and his impact was among the greatest the game has ever known.  The Board recognizes this impact Buck had on millions of people, as he used baseball to teach lessons of life, love and respect.  His contributions to the game go well beyond the playing field.  This award will recognize future recipients who display the spirit Buck showed every day of his life.”