Saturday, October 07, 2006

Buck O'Neil - R.I.P.

Buck O'Neil died at age 94. Here's a good obit from the NY Times (reg. sometimes req). I didn't know Buck personally. Like a lot of baseball fans, I heard him recall tales of Negro League baseball in Ken Burns' Baseball documentary on PBS in 1994. O'Neil lived in the Kansas City area and I saw him once.

My friends and I went to the Royals game about six or seven years ago and were approached by a businessman outside the gate. He had four tickets and he offered to give us three of them for free, the catch being that he kept the fourth so we sat next to him. We accepted the offer and much to our surprise and delight, found ourselves about three rows behind the opponents dugout on the third base side.

It was a perfect summer evening and we settled into our prime location. I looked to my right and there was Buck O'Neil in the next section. He sat alone with a clipboard or folder. He was working. He must have been 86 or 87 years old. There he was, very unassuming, watching the game. I don't remember if the Royals won, but I felt fortunate to be close to a living legend like Buck O'Neil. I wanted to say hello, but I generally don't bum rush celebrities. It was kind of cool to sit back and observe.

The old saying "A library burns down when an old man dies" certainly applies to Buck's passing. Thank goodness Ken Burns and subsequent scribes documented his story.

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