Buck O’Neil, who grew up in Sarasota’s Newtown neighborhood, was the first Black Major League Baseball coach. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL — Buck O’Neil, the first Black Major League Baseball coach and a Sarasota native, was among six candidates elected to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. next year.
O’Neil was selected by the Early Baseball Era Committee, which considered a 10-person ballot of candidates whose primary contribution to the sport came before 1950, according to a news release from the hall of fame. He was named on 13 of 16 ballots.
Others chosen to be inducted into the hall of fame in 2022 are Bud Fowler — also selected by the Early Baseball Era Committee — and Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, and Tony Oliva, elected by the Golden Days Era Committee.
Both committees made their selections during meetings in Orlando Sunday.
O’Neil, who grew up in Sarasota’s Newtown neighborhood, played and coached professionally for decades, and was also a champion of racial equality for more than 50 years, according to a news release from the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition about a March 2021 exhibit about the baseball icon.
The grandson of slaves, he was born in 1911 and grew up working Sarasota’s celery fields as a child, WUSF reported. His father ran a pool hall for Newtown’s African American community. Seeking a better life, O’Neil turned to baseball.
The first baseman spent most of his career playing for the Negro American League’s Kansas City Monarchs.
He went on to work as a baseball scout for the Chicago Cubs, who he remained with until 1988, and even spent two years as coach of the MLB team in the early 1960s, according to the Birdland Insider.
O’Neil joined the Kansas City Royals in the late 1980s, scouting for them until his death in 2006 at age 94.
He received a lifetime achievement award by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His impact on American baseball is chronicled in books, the Ken Burns 1994 PBS documentary “Baseball” and is showcased at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, according to the coalition’s news release.
He was also awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom and was instrumental in establishing the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in 1990, reports said.
To honor what would have been his 100th birthday, the Baltimore Orioles renamed its minor league facility at Twin Lakes Park in Sarasota the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex.