O'Neil, Jordan, John - Buck
John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil
Position: First Baseman, Manager, 1937 - 1955
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 190 lbs.
B/T: Right, Right
Born: 1911 in Carabelle, FL
Died: October 6, 2006 Kansas City, Missouri
The players call him Skip, for Buck O'Neil is the captain of the ship that sent more Negro League veterans ashore to the white Majors than any man in baseball history. His crew included such Major League standouts as Ernie Banks, George Altman, Gene Baker, Francisco Herrera, Elston Howard, J.C. Hartman, Connie Johnson, Sweet Lou Johnson, Satchel Paige, Hank Thompson and Bob Thurman.
Buck was nicknamed after the co-owner of the semi-pro Miami Giants, Buck O'Neil . He played briefly in 1937 with the Memphis Red Sox, before joining the Kansas City Monarchs for the remainder of his stellar career. Only a two-year tour with the U.S. Navy, 1944-45, interrupted his baseball career.
In 1942, O'Neil led the Monarchs to a Negro American League title and faced the Homestead Grays in the Negro World Series. Buck hit a robust .353, as the Monarchs swept the Grays in four games. His Grays' counterpart Buck Leonard recalled, "He would find the gap in the outfield and hit it there. He was one of the best ball players I have ever seen." O'Neil won batting titles in 1940 and 1946, blasting out averages of .345 and .350, respectively.
After winning the 1946 batting title, O'Neil and the Monarchs met the Newark Eagles of the National League in the world championship. Buck hit .333 against the Eagles, along with two home runs (one a grandslam), but his Monarchs fell in seven games.
Outfielder Jimmie Crutchfield remembers, "I respected Buck in the clutch. He was that type of hitter." Crutch added, "You had to pitch very carefully to him. A smart, highly intelligent ball player. Also a good manager and I admired him for that. A hustling ball player."
His achievements included being named to the East-West All-Star Classic in 1942, 1943 and 1949. Buck also had the honor of managing the West squad in 1950, 1953, 1954 and 1955. The West was victorious in all four contests. Buck's career also included playing for the 1946 Satchel Paige AllStars, who toured the nation against Bob Feller's All-Stars in a 14 game series.
O'Neil succeeded Frank Duncan, in 1948, as manager of the Kansas City Monarchs. He continued to manage the Monarchs until 1955. This ex-Navy man guided the Monarchs to league titles in 1948, 1950, 1951 and 1953. In 1956, O'Neil was hired by the Chicago Cubs as a scout. Perhaps his greatest achievement came in 1962, when he became the first African-American coach in the Major Leagues with the Cubs. As a scout he discovered superstars like Lou Brock and Joe Carter. After 33 years as a Cubbie, he returned home, in 1988, to scout for the Kansas City Royals.
Today, Buck O'Neil chairs the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Board of the Directors, and serves on the Veterans' Committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Although a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, he would certainly feel at home in Cooperstown, New York.