This isn’t the happy baseball game post I’d planned to make about today’s Twins/Tigers game, because this is more important.
Today is the day where 17 players were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame – one of the highest numbers of inductees ever.
The first speaker in today’s ceremony was Buck O’Neil, who received a standing ovation before and after he spoke. O’Neil received much support to be part of the class from the Negro Leagues, but fell short in the voting.
Do you know who Buck O’Neil is?
He started the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City in 1990. He was one of the greatest major league baseball scouts of all time. Satchel Paige used to call him Nancy. He wasn’t allowed to play high school baseball, because he was black. He coached and played in professional All-Star games. He managed the Kansas City Monarchs. He just played in the 2006 Northern League All-Star game, at the age of 94. And in 1962, O’Neil made history by becoming the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball, with the Chicago Cubs.
And yet he failed to receive the 75% of approving vote to put him into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“The truth is, I don’t belong; I was a very good ballplayer, but very good ballplayers don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Great ballplayers do. Oh, I’d like to think I might get in the Hall one day, but maybe as a manager or for other contributions that I made to baseball. Right now, my job is seeing to it that the guys I know are qualified to get in do get in.”
With all of the jackasses in the league now that get suspended for 50 games due to not following a drug policy or joining a new team and refusing the play the position they’ve asked you to play, it takes a 94-year-old man, well past his baseball playing days, to remind everyone that true sports heros really can be respected.
Does Buck O’Neil deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. And it makes me a bit sad that a group of 14 people assigned to vote for these nominees couldn’t see the same way.