Buck O’Neill, the champion of black ballplayer during a monumental, eight-decade career on and off the field, joined Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso and three others in being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Former Minnesota Twins teammates Tony Oliva and Jim Catt were also selected along with Bud Fowler by a pair of veterans committees.
Oliva and Kat, both 83 years old, are the only surviving new members. Long-time slacker Dick Allen, who died last December, fell one vote shy of the election.
The six newcomers will be installed in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24, 2022, along with any new members chosen by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. First-time candidates David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez will join the ballot with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Kurt Schilling on January 25 with voting results.
Passed in previous Hall elections, the new members reflect the diversity of achievements.
This was the first time that O’Neill, Minoso and Fowler had the opportunity to hall under the new rules, honoring the contribution of the Negro League. Last December, figures for some 3,400 players were added to Major League Baseball’s record book after MLB said it was “correcting a long oversight in the history of the sport” and declared the Negro League as a major league. was reclassified as
“Jubilation,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, that O’Neill helped create after the voting results were announced.
O’Neill was a two-time All-Star first baseman in the Negro Leagues and the first Black coach in the National or American League. He became a notable ambassador for the sport in 2006 until his death at 94 and has already been honored with a life-sized statue inside the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Many casual fans were not fully aware of what O’Neill did for the sport throughout his life, until he saw the nine-part Ken Burns documentary “Baseball”, which first aired on PBS in 1994. happened.
There, O’Neill’s grace, wit and vivid story brought back the times of Negro League stars Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Kool Papa Bell, as well as the days of many more black ballplayers whose names were long forgotten. .
Kendrick said it was too bad O’Neal wouldn’t be in Cooperstown for the next July 22 induction ceremony, “but you know his spirit is going to fill the valley,” he said on MLB Network.
Minoso was a two-time All-Star in the Negro Leagues before becoming the first black player for the Chicago White Sox in 1951. Born in Havana, “The Cuban Comet” was a seven-time All-Star with the White Sox and Indians. ,
There was nothing small about Saturnino Orestes Armas Minoso on the field. He hit more than .300 eight times with Cleveland and Chicago, led the AL in stolen bases three times, reached double digits in home runs every season, and won three Gold Gloves in left field.
Minoso ended, or so it seems, in 1964. He returned at age 50 for the White Sox in 1976 – going 1 for 8 – and batted twice in 1980, giving him five decades of playing pro ball.
The White Sox retired his No. 9 in 1983, and he remained close to the organization and its players before his death in 2015.
Fowler, born in 1858, is often regarded as the first black professional baseball player. The pitcher and second baseman helped form the popular Page Fence Giants barnstorming team.
Hodges becomes the latest Brooklyn Dodgers star from “The Boys of Summer” to arrive at the hall alongside Jackie Robinson, Duke Snyder, Roy Campanella and Pee Wee Reese.
An eight-time All-Star at first base and a three-time Gold Glover, Hodges extended his legacy when he managed the 1969 “Miracle Mets” to the World Series Championship, a stunning five-game victory over the Baltimore favorite.
Hodges was still manager of the Mets when he suffered a heart attack during spring training in 1972 and died at the age of 47.
Oliva was a three-time AL batting champion with the Twins, whose career was cut short by knee problems. Kat was 283-237 in 25 seasons and a 16-time Gold Glove winner.
O’Neill and Fowler were selected by the Early Days Committee. Hodges, Minoso, Oliva and Kat were selected by the Golden Days committees.
The 16-member panel met separately in Orlando, Florida. The election was originally supposed to coincide with the big league winter meetings, which MLB ended up with due to the lockdown.
It took 12 votes (75%) to be selected: Minoso received 14, O’Neill 13, and Hodges, Oliva, Katt and Fowler 12 votes. Allen had 11.
O’Neill played 10 years in the Negro Leagues and helped the Kansas City Monarchs win the championship as a player and manager. His numbers were hardly flamboyant – a .258 career batting average, nine home runs.
But what John Jordan O’Neill Jr. meant to baseball can never be measured by numbers alone.
O’Neill became the first Black coach in American League or National League history with the Chicago Cubs and enjoyed an illustrious career as a scout.
His influence is still visible today.
Along with his statue in Cooperstown, the Hall’s Board of Directors periodically presents the Buck O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award to an individual whose “extraordinary efforts have increased baseball’s positive impact on society … and whose character, Integrity and dignity” are the mirrors shown by O. ‘blue.
In 2006, it appeared that O’Neill would sink into the acclaim he earned for his work, when the Negro League’s Special Committee convened to study candidates for the Hall of Fame. The panel actually elected 17 new members but O’Neill was not among them, narrowly left.
O’Neill was chosen to speak on Induction Day in Cooperstown on behalf of the 17 newcomers who were all deceased. True to his nature, he did not spare a single word of remorse and regret about his fate.
Two months later, O’Neill died in Kansas City.