From Moses Fleetwood Walker to Jackie Robinson, several Black baseball legends throughout history have broken racial barriers and instrumentally shaped the landscape of the sport. Amongst the group of trailblazers was MLB coach John Buck O’Neil who was recently posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, CNN reported.
The Florida native had nothing short of a legendary sports career. O’Neil started playing semiprofessional baseball at 12-years-old and inked a deal with the Negro American League’s Memphis Red Sox in 1937. He made his professional debut in 1938 as the Kansas City Monarchs’ first baseman. Throughout his 10-year tenure with the team, he emerged as a power player, garnering several milestones, including being named Negro American League batting champion twice.
In 1948, he took his passion for the game into a managerial role for the Monarchs, helping the team bring home four Negro American League titles. After serving as a scout for the Chicago Cubs, he joined the team’s coaching staff in 1962, making history as the MLB’s first Black coach.
Following his coaching career, O’Neil dedicated his time to preserving and amplifying the stories of Black baseball players. He founded the Missouri-based Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. O’Neil passed away in 2006. However, his legacy lives on through generations of athletes who have used their platforms as an avenue for activism.
“Jackie Robinson was Jackie Robinson for the players, but Buck O’Neil was Jackie Robinson for us on the baseball side, on the business side, on the baseball operations side,” Buck O’Neil Professional Baseball Scouts & Coaches Association president Steve Williams said in a statement. “He opened up so many doors for the rest of us to be able to walk through. He did a lot of different things for a lot of different people.”
The long-overdue recognition comes 15 years after O’Neil was initially nominated to be inducted into the Hall of Fame but fell short by one vote.