Buck O’Neil Deserves to be in the Hall of Fame


The Negro Leagues currently have 35 members in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Players like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell were among the all time greats, even if they did not get to play during their primes in an integrated major leagues. These players, and many others, were legendary in their exploits on the diamond.

Then there are those people in the Hall of Fame for their contributions to the Negro Leagues, and baseball in general. Effa Manley was inducted not just for her abilities in the front office of the Newark Eagles, but for her contributions off the field. The Baseball Hall of Fame has several other inductees, such as Al Spalding, who were inducted more for their off the field contributions than for their playing careers. That is where Buck O’Neil should come in.

Even with the notoriously difficult ability to get statistics from the Negro Leagues, O’Neil appeared to be a solid player, but not someone that would be thought of as Hall of Fame caliber. His very incomplete career statistics give O’Neil a .283/.317/.382 batting line, and he did win a batting title in 1946 with a .350 batting average. O’Neil played primarily for the Kansas City Monarchs as their first baseman, and later became manager before the league folded.

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Where Buck O’Neil truly made an impact was after his Negro Leagues career ended. O’Neil became a scout for the Chicago Cubs when the Monarchs were sold, and later became the first black coach in Major League Baseball history in 1962. He helped spearhead the founding of the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame, serving as the honorary chairman until his death in 2006.

O’Neil was also instrumental in bringing the Negro Leagues back to the the collective attention of a national baseball audience. When Ken Burns did his documentary on baseball, O’Neil was right there, going through the old Negro Leagues players and bringing their contributions to the forefront. His eloquence earned O’Neil national attention, and, as a member of the Veteran’s Committee for the Hall of Fame, he helped bring more players from the Negro Leagues to their just rewards, ensuring their enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Sadly, however, Buck O’Neil himself was not enshrined, never hitting that magical 75% mark from the Veteran’s Committee. The man who championed so many other players was never championed enough to get his due. This needs to change. Buck O’Neil deserves to have his place in the Hall of Fame for his contributions, both on and off the field, and for what he meant for the preservation of a vital piece of baseball history.

Ed Connealy wrote an excellent piece earlier today about how the Royals should retire 25 for Satchel Paige. The Royals have the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat, but they should retire his number as well. And while baseball is remembering O’Neil, the man who they named a lifetime achievement award for, given to the person who helps enhance baseball’s positive image on society, who helps to broaden the appeal of baseball and whose integrity and dignity are comparable to O’Neil, they should enshrine him in immortality.

Let Buck O’Neil into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is a long overdue honor.

Next: The Royals need to retire 25 for Satchel Paige