Saturday, October 07, 2006

No Cooperstown for Buck

Cooperstown refused to admit Buck O'Neil last year after they commissioned a study to try to include many of the past Negro Leaguers not already in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I say, they made a correct decision - but probably for the wrong reasons.

Buck O'Neil was a pioneer in the game of baseball. He was a fantastic ambassador of the game. He helped to create a wonderful museum in the 18th and Vine district of Kansas City. As a contributor to the game, he belongs in the Hall of Fame, but he doesn't have the playing credentials of many of the players already there. (There are no scouts in the Hall, so we can't compare those achievements here.) So, I say if the Hall comes a callin', refuse.

Why? Because Buck already has a home in the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame, and if you want to see this great gentleman, you should have to make the trip to Kansas City. Have lunch at the Peachtree Restaurant before touring the museum. Enjoy the fantastic corn bread muffins, fried chicken, meatloaf and the wonderful sides. Then walk down the museum for the afternoon. For dinner, just a short drive down 18th Street is Arthur Bryant's - home of some of the world's best barbecue.

I would say spend the whole day at the Negro Leagues museum, but unfortunately, it is not as good as Cooperstown. It needs help. It needs more stories on placards by all of the great memorabilia. It needs more interactive exhibits. It needs more space period. If you want to get to know Buck, go to the museum - and with more support, it could rival Cooperstown with information on the game of baseball.

Listening to Joe Morgan and Jon Miller today during the Cardinals/Padres playoff game first gave me the idea, because of something Morgan said (and one of the few things with which I can remember agreeing, since he is such an established thinking guy). He said he had conversations with Negro Leaguers who never made the bigs - and they said they didn't miss a thing, which leads into the title of Buck's autobiography - "I Was Right On Time".

They had a blast competing in the Negro Leagues - and this museum chronicles those years and good times. (Maybe someday, California, home of the L.A. Stars and S.F. Seals, will have a Minor League Hall of Fame, and each section of the country will contain a shrine to the game - from the pastoral setting in upstate New York, to downtown Kansas City, to the coast of California.) Buck was the champion of those years. We should never forget him and we should bring those memories to the front. Though there is some shared history between the Negro Leagues and Majors - Buck will always be the beacon, standing tall and proud, that leads to the Negro Leagues and Kansas City and nowhere else.


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