Last week the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center was flooded after vandals cut a water pipe in the building. That got me thinking about O’Neil’s career and legacy. O’Neil played 12 seasons in the Negro Leagues, 11 with the Kansas City Monarchs. He paused his baseball career for military service with the U.S. Navy from 1943-1945. After playing and managing with the Kansas City Monarchs, O’Neil became a scout for the Chicago Cubs and later for the Kansas City Royals. In 1962 he became the first African American coach for the Cubs and MLB.
You can check out his baseball-related stats on Baseball Reference. Here is a list of O’Neil’s other accomplishments and honors:
Buck O’Neil’s Awards:
- 1996: Received honorary doctor of business administration degree from University of Missouri-Kansas City Bloch School of Business
- 1998: Named Midwest Scout of the Year for the Kansas City Royals
- 1999: Awarded Kansas State College Lifetime Leadership Award
- 2002: Elected to the baseball scouts Hall of Fame
- 2006: Jersey number retired by the Kansas City T-Bones
- 2006: Received an honorary doctorate from Missouri Western State University
- 2006: Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in recognition of his “excellence and determination both on and off the baseball field.”
- 2007: Awarded the first annual MLB Beacon of Life Award at the inaugural
- 2007: The Kansas City Royals established the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat program to “to remember the impact of Buck O’Neil and to honor those who are so vital to our communities.”
- 2008: Awarded the first-ever National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2008: The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum introduces the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize individuals “whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil.”
- 2012: Inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians
Statues, Bridges, Buildings, and Other Things Named in Honor of Buck O’Neil:
Given the recent events in Kansas City, I figured it a good time to post the NLBM’s “Discover Greatness” video:
Buck O’Neil Research and Education Center (the Paseo YMCA), Kansas City, MO
In the early hours of Tuesday, May 29, 2018, Kansas City firefighters were called to the former home of baseball great Satchel Paige. Initial news reports stated the house was “destroyed.” The fire is being investigated as arson.
On June 22, 2018, a water pipe was cut in the Buck O’Neil Research and Education Center, also in Kansas City, resulting in flooding on two floors of the building. Police called it “intentional property damage” with “malicious intent.”
Later on June 22, a water fountain pipe burst at the Negro League Baseball Museum (NLBM). At least that one seems to have caused little damage – and it doesn’t seem to have been done intentionally (so far).
At first I thought it was simply the conspiracy theorist in me that saw a connection between the first two events, but yesterday Natalie Wiener of the Bleacher Report asked the question I’d been thinking, “Who’s Trying to Destroy Negro League Landmarks in Kansas City?” While there’s no official word on whether the two incidents are linked, it’s interesting that the thought has crossed more than just one mind. But purposeful vandalism specifically targeting Negro League landmarks is too terrible to fathom. In her article, Wiener quotes Bob Kendrick, President of the NLBM, as saying, “’My gut tells me that there’s not a connection between the two, but I don’t really know. Maybe it’s because the human side of me says that surely nobody would target those two names intentionally to do something of this nature.’”
I certainly hope he’s right.
Crowd watching the 1911 World Series on a Play-O-Graph outside the New York Herald building. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
What did we do before television? How did people watch baseball? Of course, there were radio broadcasts, but there was also the Play-O-Graph. This animatronic machine simulated the action in the game on a large replica of the field. Operation of the Play-O-Graph required a telegraph operator transmitting the action in the game and two operators moving the graphics around the board to represent the live-action game.
Play-O-Graph machines seem to have been found most often outside of newspaper buildings. As the picture above shows, the Play-O-Graph depicted what was happening in the game, while the ad above it encouraged people to read the paper “for full details of the game.” According to an article posted on Citylab.com, in the early 1900s, numerous patents were issued for similar systems. Competing products included, the Nokes Electrascore, the Compton Electric Base Ball Game Impersonator, and the Jackson Manikin Baseball Indicator.
Thanks to Old-Time Baseball Photos for cluing me into this awesome invention! There have actually been several articles and blog posts written about the Play-O-Graph, so check them out for more info – and check out some more Play-O-Graph pics below.
- Play-O-Graph sponsored by The Washington Post, depicting the 1912 World Series. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
Play-o-graph in front of the Evening Press office in Muncie, Indiana, ca. 1923. Photo courtesy of the Ball State University Libraries’ W. A. Swift Photographs Collection.
Crowd viewing the World Series on a Play-O-Graph in Laramie, WY, 1926. Photo courtesy of Pinterest.
On Thursday it was 24 hours of baseball in Alaska for the summer solstice. Major League Baseball partnered with the American Legion, PONY Baseball and Softball, USA Baseball, and USA Softball to host a variety of baseball and softball games and activities during Alaska’s 24-hours of sunlight on the first official day of summer. The festivities included the 113th Midnight Sun Game, which is held every year for the summer solstice. The game features the collegiate summer team, the Alaska Goldpanners, and another worthy opponent, generally another college summer league or NCAA team. The game begins at 10:30 pm every year.
This year’s special guests included Abe Key, MLB’s vice president for baseball and softball development, and Billy Bean, MLB’s vice president and special assistant to the Commissioner. Bean was a Goldpanners’ player in 1985.
What could be better than 24 hours of non-stop baseball?
One day earlier this week I was watching the Washington Nationals on TV and not paying full attention, when I caught the end of the announcers talking about the stats on teenagers in Major League Baseball. They quickly showed some stats and made the case that Juan Soto was leading in several of those categories. Somehow, they managed to demonstrate that Soto was in the same category as players like Bryce Harper, Ty Cobb, and others.
I haven’t been able to track down those specific stats, but I did found some great sources of information on major league leaders under the age of 20:
- Baseball Reference has several “Leader Boards,” one of which is “Batting Leaders Up to & Including Age 19.” This page includes players with a 310 plate appearances or more through the age of 19. Leaders in this category include: Mel Ott with a batting average of .318; Bryce Harper with 22 home runs (second only to Tony Conigliaro with 24); and Ty Cobb with 18 sacrifice hits.
- MLB.com recently published an article on “MLB’s best seasons by teenagers.” This article referred to Soto as one of MLB’s “bright young talents” and highlighted the early careers of Bryce Harper; Ken Griffey, Jr.; Edgar Renteria; Ty Cobb; and several others.
If you want to compare Soto to those legends, here are just some of his stats so far – in the 28 games he’s played and his 108 plate appearances:
How many of those teenage leader boards and lists will he end up on?