John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil
Inducted - Monday, February 27, 2012
Sculptor: E. Spencer Schubert
Where is John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil in the Hall of Famous Missourians?
With his charisma and eloquence, John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil earned the admiration of not only baseball fans, but also all those who met him. His illustrious baseball career spanned seven decades and his desire and passion for the game resulted in O’Neil becoming one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors.
O'Neil was born November 13, 1911 in Carrabelle, Florida where his father introduced him to baseball at an early age. Buck’s professional baseball career started as a first baseman for the Memphis Red Sox in the inaugural season of the newly-formed Negro American League. After one season in Memphis, Buck finished his career playing for the Kansas City Monarchs. He career was highlighted by several All-Star game appearances and trips to the Negro League World Series, where the Monarchs won the title in 1942.
Once his playing career concluded, Buck continued with the Kansas City Monarchs for eight years as their manager. As manager, Buck led the Monarchs to five pennants and served as skipper in four All-Star games. Buck got his chance in the ‘Big Leagues’ as a scout for the Chicago Cubs in 1956. With the move, O’Neil became the first Africa-American coach in Major League Baseball history. O’Neil is credited with signing Hall of Fame baseball players Ernie Banks and Lou Brock to their first pro contracts. He went on to serve more than three decades with the Cubs before returning to Kansas City to become a scout for the Kansas City Royals.
O'Neil’s contributions to the game of baseball continued after his retirement. He served as Board Chairman of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) in Kansas City, Missouri. He was a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee (Cooperstown, New York) and helped lead the charge for deserving Negro Leaguers to be inducted. O’Neil, who passed away in 2006, is credited with helping to bring the story of the Negro Leagues and the Negro League Baseball Hall of Fame into the public eye and for his work in preserving this important piece of American history.