SDI Side Notes – February 13t
1920 – On this day in 1920, a group of eight team owners, all from the Midwest, meets at the Kansas City YMCA to organize the Negro National League, which will become one of the most successful ventures of its kind.
It’s impossible for me to write a column on the Negro Leagues. For one, it’s too meaningful a piece of baseball history to be buried in Side Notes. Secondly, I’m not an expert.
Buck and his brothers
The Negro Leagues were best embodied by baseball’s greatest ambassador: Buck O’Neil. He is the most underappreciated man in baseball history. (For more, visit Baseball Reference’s Buck O’Neil tribute page).
He was a gentleman and a scholar: a great player, a better coach, and above all else, a transcendent human being. He should have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame before his passing in 2006. In 2008, the Hall of Fame tried to remedy this situation with the establishment of the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.
A fitting tribute, too late
The Hall dedicated a lifesize statue of O’Neil in 2008. Each honoree of the O’Neil award receives a smaller version at the Induction Ceremony during Hall of Fame Weekend. Besides Buck, the recipients so far have included Roland Hemond and Joe Garagiola. From the Hall’s website:
The Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors not more than once every three years to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil. The Award, named after the late Buck O’Neil, was first given in 2008, with O’Neil being the first recipient.
I chose the pictures in this article as paint and cutout formats, giving them perspective but not detail; this is for a reason: Buck was too great a man to be adequately captured by a photo, or words. He had to be experienced; anyone who saw him in Ken Burns’ Baseball knows this.
For those who don’t know him, this video is a good tribute to him, and to his fellow players.
Honoring the Negro Leagues
For more on the Negro Leagues, I recommend the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, in Kansas City; donations are welcome and needed:
The players it honors can be found here:
Many of them are in Cooperstown. Countless more would have been.