When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

07 October 2006

Buck O’Neil, RIP

Buck O’Neil, a star first baseman and manager in the Negro leagues and a pioneering scout and coach in the major leagues who devoted the final decade of his life to chronicling the lost world of black baseball, died last night in Kansas City, Mo. He was 94.
Buck O' Neil obit (New York Times)

Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary made Buck O'Neil more famous than he had ever been when he was well into his 80s. Happily, O'Neil found his involvement as the living historian of Negro League Baseball revivifying and rejuvenating. More from the Times obit:
For O’Neil, baseball represented a lifelong joy. “Nowadays, whenever us Negro leaguers put on the old uniforms for autograph-signings and such, you can just see the years peel away,” he wrote in his memoirs. “I’ve seen men lose 50 years in just a few hours. Baseball is better than sex. It is better than music, although I do believe jazz comes in a close second. It does fill you up.”
Hot Midwestern travel tip: If you're ever in Kansas City, Missouri and looking for something to do, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (which shares space with the American Jazz Museum) down on 18th and Vine, just off The Paseo, is absolutely worth your time. In many ways this museum was O'Neil's baby; he was a founding member and chairman of the board of directors from the museum's inception.

Carrie and I spent a lovely afternoon enjoying the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (and the Jazz Museum) and urge you to check it out.

By the way, O'Neil's continuing exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY is inexplicable and damn nearly criminal.

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