From the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger.
Beloved Negro Leagues icon and Kansas City legend Buck O™Neil died Friday night. O™Neil was 94.
He spent his life playing, coaching and finally promoting baseball. He was a batting champion, a three-time All-Star, and a wildly successful manager for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues before becoming the first black coach in the major leagues with the Cubs in 1962. As a scout, he is credited with discovering and signing Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Lou Brock, among others.
After his coaching career concluded, O™Neil devoted his life to spreading the stories of the men who played in the Negro Leagues. He captivated audiences of all ages and races with stories of Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, and others.
He became something of a national celebrity as the narrator of Ken Burns™ PBS documentary, œBaseball, in 1994. Since then he became the top ambassador for the Negro Leagues, telling his stories on national radio and television, including with David Letterman.
In Kansas City, he gained fame as the leader of the effort to build the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the 18th and Vine district. Once it was built, O™Neil served as the museum™s chairman and its most effective promoter.
œIt™s really hard to express what he meant to everybody in Kansas City and certainly to me, professionally, and even more personally as a dear friend, said Bob Kendrick, marketing director for the museum. œHe will be greatly missed by everybody. It will be a tremendous void in all our lives. But Buck would not want us to be sad, so we™ll try to be a little more upbeat. But obviously that™s hard right now.