This post originally ran on July 23, 2008.
His name was John. But to anyone who knew him or knew of him he was Buck. Negro League Hall of Famer Buck O’Neil lived for baseball. He, regardless of what was done to him in his lifetime because of the color of his skin, may have been one of the greatest ambassadors the game has ever seen.
I got my introduction to Buck O’Neil through Ken Burns series on Baseball. I was glued to every word the man said. He was like a magnet. He not only spoke of the game and it’s history but of history in general and what the Negro League players endured. I was enthralled.
I wish I had the time to really tell you the Buck O’Neil story and why he was such a great man but I will tell you this. I had the pleasure of meeting Buck O’Neil at the NECBL Tribute to Faye Vincent in October 2004. He was pleasant, kind, generous and personable. He was everything you want to be and you’d want your children to be. I felt as if I had met someone who not only influenced history but was history. It was if pages of my old baseball encyclopedia had come to life.
Buck passed away in October of 2006. Not only is baseball worse off without him here but the World is as well.
For more on Buck, make sure you read these links I included. One is Buck’s Wikipedia entry, the other is an interview he did with Ken Burns about baseball. You will be richer for it.