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The late Buck O’Neil was a notable baseball player who contributed heavily to the Negro Leagues, and made history on May 29, 1962 by becoming the first Black coach in Major League Baseball. The Kansas City Monarchs star was subbed from induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame despite his many contributions to the sport.

John Jordan O’Neil Jr. was born November 13th, 1911 in Carrabelle, Fla. He attended Edward Waters College for high school and two years of college course; Edward Waters is known as the first HBCU in Florida. In 1937 after briefly playing in the amateur ranks, the Negro American League’s Memphis Red Sox signed him. The following year, his contract was sold to the Monarchs, where he completed his career in 1955.

That year, O’Neil became a scout for the MLB’s Chicago Cubs and is credited for signing Hall of Famer, Lou Brock to his first contract. In 1962, the Cubs named O’Neil as one of its coaches, but he was not afforded in-game base coaching privileges. He left the Cubs to scout for the Kansas City Royals in 1988, and was named Midwest Scout Of The Year in 1998. O’Neil was a popular fixture in Kansas City and was a go-to person for historical facts about the Negro Leagues and baseball in general.

In 2006, just shortly before his death, O’Neil announced the induction of the Negro Leagues in the Hall. However, his name was left of the list of greats to be enshrined due to a lack of votes. Perhaps acknowledging the snub, the Hall created the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors individuals who had a positive impact on the game. The award is only given out every few years and only four people have won the honor since its inception.


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