Cooperstown Chronicles – Buck O’Neill & Minnie Minoso
I have been trying to do my part to spread the word about a great gentleman that has been a part of baseball for over seven decades. His commitment to the game, even as it continually shunned him, is admirable. In his playing days, he was not allowed to play in the big leagues because of the color of his skin. As hard as that is to fathom, the decision to omit him from the HOF when the “special” committee reviewed the Negro Leagues may be even worse. I use the word special loosely because there was nothing special about their decision. Maybe his playing stats didn’t justify his admission. However, they know what Buck has done for baseball (the Negro Leagues in particular) for the past half century. Keeping Buck out was a slap in the face to a baseball icon. They can try and spin it any way, but they can’t justify their decision in my mind. Now that he’s passed, there is no way to make it right. They can choose to let him in now. I guess I’d have to be OK with it. I just wish they could have done it while he was alive so he could enjoy it. Robbing this man of the joy of playing in the big leagues wasn’t enough. They had to rob him of the joy of being recognized for his service to baseball. They should be ashamed of themselves.
I’ve posted this before on my Sporting News site, but I’ll do it here as well.
A heralded player stepped into the batter’s box. This two-time batting champ didn’t crowd the plate. He didn’t strike fear in the pitcher he faced. Respect yes, but not fear. Why, you say? Because the leadoff hitter in the Northern League All-Star Game this summmer was one Buck O’Neil. The 94 year old former Negro League player was signed by the Kansas City T-Bones to a one day contract. He became the oldest player to ever play in a professional league with his at bats. (Buck walked in the top of the first, got traded to the opposition, and walked in the bottom of the first). T-Bones GM Rick Muntean wanted to use this appearance to raise attention to the snubbing Buck O’Neill received from the committee reviewing Negro Leagues. The T-Bones were trying to formulate a grassroots movement to petition to get Buck O’Neill in the Hall of Fame. Click Here to vote to Induct Buck The 12-person panel reviewing the Negro Leagues for entries into the Baseball Hall of Fame has preserved the history of injustices experienced by the players of this generation. Failing to elect Buck O’Neil and Minnie Minoso is a slap in the face not only to these two great ballplayers, but also to the sanctity of the Hall of Fame. They were the only living members among the 39 candidates on the ballot. While they are not Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb, both of these players merit being in the Hall of Fame.
Minnie Minoso played 17 seasons in the major leagues and was a career .298 hitter. He was a seven-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove outfielder. He finished fourth in MVP voting four times. He had among the top ten batting averages eight times between 1951-1960. Nine times he had among the top ten on-base percentages during that timeframe. Six times he had a top ten slugging percentage. Nine times he was top ten in runs, eight times he was top ten in hits (including leading the league in 1960), nine times he was top ten in total bases (including leading the league in 1954). Eight times he was in the top ten in doubles (led the league in 1957), six times in triples (led the league in 1951, 1954, and 1956). Twice he was in the top ten in home runs, five times for RBIs, and four times for walks Nine times he was in top six in stolen bases (led the league1951-1953). He also led the league in hit by pitch ten times (was top four 12 times). He was 57 years old when he played his last game. Do those sound like Hall of Fame credentials to you?…it’s because they are.
Buck O’Neil’s stats aren’t as gaudy as Minoso’s, but his impact on the game is just as great. Buck led the Negro League in batting in 1940 and 1946. He finished his career as a .288 hitter. He managed the Kansas City Monarch from 1948-1955, guiding them to five pennants and two Black World Series. He helped launch the Major League careers of Ernie Banks, George Altman, Gene Baker, Francisco Herrera, Elston Howard, J.C. Hartman, Connie Johnson, Sweet Lou Johnson, Satchel Paige, Hank Thompson, and Bob Thurman. In 1962 he became the first black coach in the Major Leagues with the Cubs. He helped discover stars like Lou Brock and Joe Carter. He spent 33 years with the Cubs before joining the Kansas City Royals as a scout in 1988. Buck chaired the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Board of Directors, and served on the Veterans’ Committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Perhaps the most important thing Buck O’Neil did for baseball was keep the memory of the Negro Leagues alive. He fought to make sure that the injustices of the black players were not forgotten. Unfortunately, he had to relive it when this panel made their ridiculous decision. He died at 94 years old. I said it would be a shame for him to have to die before being recognized for his contributions…and it is.