A fitting tribute

Nominations now being accepted for Buck O’Neil Award

May 14, 2010
The Buck O'Neil Award was established in 2008. (Sparks/National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – His likeness greets thousands of visitors a week at the Baseball Hall of Fame, with a smile on his face and a Kansas City Monarchs cap in hand.

John Jordan O’Neil’s legacy is alive in Cooperstown. And the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s Buck O’Neil Award is an unflagging reminder of what its namesake meant to baseball.

“He paved the way for so many people, both as a player in the Negro leagues and as a coach,” said Hall of Famer Dave Winfield during the O’Neil Award dedication in 2008. “This is a fitting tribute.”

Created in 2007 to honor the contributions of a man who spent eight decades in baseball, the Buck O’Neil Award was first presented in 2008 to O’Neil as a tribute to one of the game’s great ambassadors. The award, bestowed by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors not more frequently than once every three years, is symbolized by a life-sized statue of O’Neil – created by nationally renowned sculptor William Behrends – on the Museum’s first floor along with glass-panel etchings commemorating O’Neil’s contributions to the National Pastime.

The Buck O’Neil Award honors an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball's positive impact on society, broadened the game's appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O'Neil.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is now accepting nominations for the Buck O’Neil Award. Nominations may be submitted by anyone, to the Hall of Fame, at any time, in writing, and should detail how the proposed candidate carries O'Neil's extraordinary traits. Nominations may be submitted to: Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, 25 Main Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326. Only submissions received by mail will be considered.

“Anyone who ever met him knew what a great man he was,” said Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr at the dedication of the Buck O’Neil Award in 2008. “He loved the game of baseball.”

O’Neil, born Nov. 13, 1911, was a first baseman and manager in the Negro leagues throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s before becoming a scout for the Chicago Cubs. In 1962, he became the first African-American coach in the major leagues with the Cubs.

In 1994, O’Neil received national acclaim for his interviews in Ken Burns’ documentary on baseball. He died on Oct. 6, 2006, and was posthumously honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Dec. 7, 2006.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum