Over the last few years, I’ve come to believe that every baseball fan needs to know the name Buck O’Neil. Then I realized that every baseball fan doesn’t just need to know the name Buck O’Neil, they need to know who Buck O’Neil is, and why he is such a treasure to baseball and our country.
If you’ve seen Ken Burns’ documentary on baseball, you know who I’m talking about. Or if you saw the traveling Negro League exhibit that stopped by Chief Sealth High School last year, you might have had the chance to meet and hear Buck O’Neil. But if neither of those apply and you still haven’t been introduced to Buck O’Neil, then I really encourage you to pick up his autobiography, I Was Right On Time.
From being denied admission to his local high school because of the color of his skin, to barnstorming around the country with baseball’s greatest players, to becoming manager of the legendary Kansas City Monarchs, O’Neil has stories that are captivating and engaging, as well as full of insight into the world of Negro League baseball that existed in the middle part of the 20th century. It’s also an honest look at the reality that dominated our country – segregation, discrimination, and prejudice.
It’s the story of a man who has seen and been a part of more baseball games that I can only imagine – but someone who is rooted in humbleness, humility, and most importantly, love for the game and love for those around him. And most importantly, it’s a the story of a man who could be bitter because he didn’t get the opportunity to play in the major leagues – but instead of harboring resentment, Buck knows for that his life, he was right on time.
Talk about a guy who is a wealth of information, stories and humor – and is as comfortable in his own skin as anybody I’ve ever known. At 94 years young, O’Neil continues his lifelong involvement in baseball as the chairman of the Negro League Baseball Museum – a place I’ll be visiting later this year, and somewhere I’d encourage you to go as well.