NLBM dedicating KC streetcar, bus to O'Neil

October 8th, 2020

Baseball legend Buck O’Neil died 14 years ago this week, and Negro League Baseball Museum president Bob Kendrick is making sure O’Neil will never be forgotten. In partnership with RideKC, a mass transit company in Kansas City, NLBM will reveal a streetcar and metro bus dedicated to O’Neil on Nov. 13 -- the day O’Neil would have turned 109 years old.

O’Neil was born in Carrabelle, Fla., but he made Kansas City his adopted home after playing 11 years with the Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. In fact, O’Neil has been honored by his adopted hometown numerous times. There’s the Buck O’Neil Bridge, which spans the Missouri River. This past summer, the USS Kansas City, a combat ship located in San Diego, named its galley after O’Neil. It’s called “The Right on Time Cafe” -- the name of O’Neil’s autobiography. Let’s not forget that O’Neil was a driving force behind the creation of the Negro League Baseball Museum. It celebrated its 30th anniversary last month.

The NLBM is a privately funded non-profit organization; annually renewing memberships to support the museum are available from $25 to $1,000. Membership includes free admission for the year, a 10 percent discount on merchandise from the NLBM Extra Inning Store and advance information on special events. Members also receive a gift and additional benefits at each level of support.

“Buck’s legacy continues to play on. As you know, that is significant to me. It’s important to me that people will never forget Buck O’Neil. The museum just turned 30 last week. Thirty years later, we still remember the man who built our house,” Kendrick said.

O’Neil became nationally known for his appearance in the documentary, “Baseball,” by filmmaker Ken Burns. O’Neil gladly told stories about his days as a player/coach in the Negro Leagues. As a player, O’Neil helped the Monarchs win the Negro World Series in 1942.

After his Negro League career ended, O’Neil became a successful scout in Major League Baseball. As a scout for the Cubs, O’Neil signed Lou Brock, Lee Smith, Joe Carter and Oscar Gamble to their first professional contracts. Two of those players -- Brock and Smith -- became Hall of Famers. Carter and Gamble became respectable power hitters.

“The documentary elevated America’s awareness of Buck O’Neil,” Kendrick said. “His compelling story in Ken’s documentary on the history of baseball made Buck an overnight sensation. America fell in love with Buck O’Neil. He was 82 years old at that time. That’s when most of us are preparing to shut it down. It jettisoned an entire new career for Buck. As I say, God bless him to live another 12 years where he was literally galivanting all over this country preaching the gospel of the Negro Leagues. I have great joy that Buck is not forgotten. He was a much bigger star at age 82 than he ever was when he was playing in the Negro Leagues, and he was a star in the Negro Leagues.”