NAIA 2006 World Series News-->
O’Neil excited to be part of Series
Legendary Negro League baseball player Buck O’Neil will serve as the
featured speaker for the annual Avista NAIA World Series banquet at
the Lewiston Elk’s Lodge on Thursday, May 25.
O’Neil, 95, was a first-baseman and manager during his playing days
of 1938-55, including stints with the Miami Giants, Shreveport Acme
Giants, Memphis Red Sox and the Kansas City Monarchs. He later
became the first black coach in Major League history.
This will be the first time O’Neal has been to Lewiston for the
“To believe in themselves and be the very best that they can be,”
O’Neil says about his speech at the banquet. “I will encourage them
to dream and not be afraid to pursue their dreams. In this great
country, if you dare to dream you can do and be anything you want to
be. That’s what the story of the Negro Leagues teaches us. We
dreamed of playing professional baseball during a time when a
segregated America didn’t want us to play. But we refused to accept
the notion that because we were Black that we were unfit to share in
the joys of our national pastime. So we created a league of our own.
The Negro Leagues would rise to rival, and in many instances
surpass, Major League Baseball in popularity and attendance.”
The banquet is sponsored by both the Lewiston and Clarkston Chambers
O’Neal was featured in the national news earlier this spring when he
was denied entry in the Baseball Hall of Fame. A committee of 12
Negro and pre-Negro league baseball historians elected 17 candidates
to the Hall in late February, but O’Neil was not among the 12
players picked. The oversight was not lost on CNN, ESPN and Larry
King Live, which all featured stories and interviews about O’Neil
after the vote.
O’Neil left the celery fields of Florida in 1934 at the age of 23
and played semi-pro baseball with the Miami Giants, New York Tigers,
Shreveport Acme Giants and Zulu Cannibal Giants. He signed with the
Memphis Red Sox in 1937 and soon was recruited to play first base
with Kansas City Monarchs. During 1938-42, the Monarchs won
consecutive Negro American League pennants.
In 1942, O’Neil was named to the East-West All-Star game, his first
of three selections, and also led to Monarchs over the Homestead
Grays in the Negro League World Series.
O’Neil served in the U.S. Navy in 1943-45, and then returned to the
Negro Leagues in 1946. Two years later, he took over as
player/manager of the Monarchs and he led the team of the American
League Western Division pennant in 1950. O’Neil also was selected to
manage the Western team at the annual All-Star Class during 1951-54.
In 1955, O’Neil became a scout for the Chicago Cubs, helping with
the integration of black baseball players into the Major Leagues.
O’Neil signed both future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Lou Brock,
although Brock was later traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.
O’Neil made history in 1962 when he became the first
African-American coach in Major League Baseball. He remained a coach
until 1965 when he went back into scouting.
O'Neil left the Cubs as a scout in 1988. He returned to Kansas City
and helped lead the effort to establish the Negro Leagues Baseball
Museum, established in 1990. He served on the National Baseball Hall
of Fame's Committee on Veterans, helping ensure the induction of
several Negro Leagues players.
O'Neil also continues to touch thousands of people each year through
promotion of baseball history, public speaking, and educational
“It is an honor for me to be part of this historic celebration,”
O’Neil says. “I am a baseball fan. I love the game and have been
blessed to have made my living in baseball for more than 70 years as
a player, coach, manager and scout. For 50 years, the NAIA has
represented everything that is good about the game of baseball. It
has given scholar-athletes an opportunity to compete in the game I
love so dearly. It’s baseball in the purest since. It excites me to
see kids competing, not for fan fare, but for the love of the game.
That’s the same spirit and passion that made the Negro Leagues so