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Buck O'Neil was born on this date in 1911. He was a Black baseball player and manager.
John Jordan O'Neil was from Carrabelle, FL, and was initially denied the opportunity to attend high school. At the time, Florida had only four high schools specifically for Blacks. However, after working a summer in a celery field with his father, O'Neil left home to live with relatives and attend a Black high school away from the panhandle, elsewhere in the state.
He left Florida in 1934 for semi-professional "barnstorming" baseball (playing interracial exhibition games), where one of his teammates was Satchel Paige. The effort paid off, and in 1937, O'Neil signed with the Memphis Red Sox for their first year of play in the newly-formed Negro American League. His contract was sold to the Kansas City Monarchs the following year.
O'Neil had a career batting average of .288, including four .300-plus seasons at the plate. In 1946 the first baseman led the leagues in hitting with a .353 average and followed that in 1947 with a career-best .358 mark. He also posted averages of .345 in 1940 and .330 in 1949. He played in four East-West All-Star games and the Negro League World Series twice. A World War II tour in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1945 briefly interrupted his playing career. In 1948 he took over as player/manager of the Monarchs and guided them to two league titles in 1953 and 1955.
In 1956, O'Neil was hired by the Chicago Cubs as a scout. Perhaps his greatest achievement came in 1962 when he became the first Black coach in the major leagues with the Cubs. As a scout, he discovered superstars like Lou Brock and Joe Carter. After 33 years with the Cubs, he returned home, in 1988, to scout for the Kansas City Royals.
O'Neil chaired the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Board of the Directors and serves on the Veterans' Committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, he missed being inducted in Cooperstown, New York, by one vote.
Buck O’Neil died on October 6, 2006, in Kansas City.
Negro League Baseball Players Association