For the first time in 15 years, Buck O’Neil could be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame – The Athletic

It was a Monday morning. February 27, 2006. Buck O’Neil arrived at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City for what was supposed to be a monumental celebration. Baseball memories that he and others had cherished in the Black Leagues. In particular, the time and resources he has devoted to sharing these memories. About his own baseball life and everything he did for the game.

A 12-member panel, formed by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, voted on the Black League candidates in a special election. A Kansas City Star story framed the moment like this: “Nine will have to vote yes for any player to participate.”

“This is the opportunity.

“This is the last chance.

“Now is the time to bring Buck O’Neil into the Hall of Fame.”

At 94, O’Neil, the former Kansas City Monarchs player, the first black coach in baseball history, the scout who signed Ernie Banks, the man who dedicated his life to preserving games of the game that others have actively worked to eliminate, was on the ballot. And now there he was, as the time passed after noon, waiting to see if he’d been elected.

Talk to the people who were there that day, and their certainty about O’Neil’s chances is as simple as it gets. Joe Posnanski, author of “The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America,” once wrote: “I can’t understand how certain everyone was that the committee would vote in Buck O ‘Neil. Hundreds of people flocked to the museum, eager to celebrate. Then the Hall of Fame called the current president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick, and informed him of the news he passed on to O’Neil: “Buck, we didn’t get the votes. . “

“We were all devastated,” Kendrick said in a phone conversation Friday afternoon. “We were devastated.

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