Buck O’Neil, a champion of black baseball players with a monumental eight-decade career on and off the field, joined Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso and three others to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday .
Former Minnesota Twins teammates Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat were also chosen along with Bud Fowler by two veteran committees.
Oliva and Kaat, both 83, are the only new living members. Longtime slugger Dick Allen, who died last December, fell to an election vote.
The six newcomers will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York on July 24, 2022, with all new members elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. First-time candidates David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez join Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling on the ballot, with the results of the vote on January 25.
Passed in the previous elections, the new members reflect a diversity of achievements.
It was the first time that O’Neil, Minoso and Fowler had the chance to make the Hall under new rules honoring contributions from the Negro League. Last December, the stats of some 3,400 players were added to Major League Baseball’s record books when MLB said it was “correcting a long-standing oversight in the game’s history” and reclassifying the Black Leagues. in major league.
“Jubilation,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, which O’Neil helped create, after the results of the vote were announced.
O’Neil was a two-time All-Star first baseman in the black leagues and the first black coach in the National or US leagues. He became an outstanding ambassador for the sport until his death in 2006 at the age of 94 and is already honored with a life-size statue inside the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.
For all that O’Neil has done for the game his entire life, many casual fans weren’t fully aware of him until they watched Ken Burns’ nine-part documentary “Baseball,” which aired. for the first time on PBS in 1994.
There, O’Neil’s grace, wit, and vivid storytelling brought the days of Black League stars Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell to life, as well as the days of many other black baseball players. whose names have long been forgotten.
Kendrick said it’s a shame O’Neil isn’t at Cooperstown for the induction ceremonies on July 22, “but you know his spirit is going to fill the valley,” he said on MLB. Network.
Minoso was a two-time All-Star in the Black Leagues before becoming the first black player for the Chicago White Sox in 1951. Havana-born “The Cuban Comet” was a seven-time All-Star with the White Sox. and Indians.
There was nothing mini about Saturnino Orestes Armas Minoso on the pitch. He’s hit over .300 eight times with Cleveland and Chicago, led the AL in stolen goals three times, hit double digits in home runs most every season, and won three gold gloves in the field. left.
Minoso finished, it seemed, in 1964. He returned to 50 for the White Sox in 1976 – 1 for 8 – and struck twice in 1980, which gave him five decades of playing. professional.
The White Sox retired his No.9 in 1983 and he remained close to the organization and its players before his death in 2015.
Fowler, born in 1858, is often considered the first black professional baseball player. The pitcher and second baseman helped create the popular Page Fence Giants Blizzard Team.
Hodges became the last Brooklyn Dodgers star of “The Boys of Summer” to reach the Hall, joining Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella and Pee Wee Reese.
Eight-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glover at first base, Hodges solidified his legacy when he led the 1969 “Miracle Mets” to the World Series championship, a surprising five-game victory over the much-favored Baltimore.
Hodges was still the manager of the Mets when he suffered a heart attack during spring training in 1972 and died at the age of 47.
Oliva was a three-time AL batting champion with the Twins, whose career was cut short by knee problems. Kaat was 283-237 in 25 seasons and a 16-time Gold Glove winner.
O’Neil and Fowler were selected by the Early Days committee. Hodges, Minoso, Oliva and Kaat were chosen by the Golden Days committees.
The 16-member panels met separately in Orlando, Florida. The election announcement was originally scheduled to coincide with the big-league winter meetings, which were called off due to the MLB lockout.
It took 12 votes (75%) for the selection: Minoso shot 14, O’Neil got 13, and Hodges, Oliva, Kaat and Fowler each got 12. Allen had 11.
Kaat, who became a retired broadcaster, kicked off 25 seasons with a host of teams, including the Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals, winning 283 games. He was an analyst for the Yankees before moving to the MLB network.
O’Neil played 10 years in the Black Leagues and helped the Kansas City Monarchs win championships as a player and manager. His numbers were barely flashy – a career batting average of 0.258, nine homers.
But what John Jordan O’Neil Jr. meant for baseball can never be measured by numbers alone.
O’Neil became the first black coach in American League or National League history with the Chicago Cubs and had a prolific career as a recruiter.
Its impact is visible to this day.
In addition to his statue at Cooperstown, the Hall’s Board of Directors periodically presents the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award to an individual whose “extraordinary efforts have enhanced the positive impact of baseball on society … and whose character , integrity and dignity ”reflect those shown by O’Neil.
In 2006, it emerged that O’Neil would soak up the accolades earned for his work when the Special Committee on the Black Leagues met to study Hall of Fame nominees. The panel indeed elected 17 new members but O’Neil was not among them, missing little.
O’Neil was chosen to speak on behalf of these 17 newcomers, all of whom passed away, on the day of the Cooperstown induction. True to his nature, he hasn’t uttered a single word of remorse and regret about his own fate for being left out.
Two months later, O’Neil died in Kansas City.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.