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Baseball Legends Passes Away at 94

October 9, 2006 at 6:45 PM EDT

TRANSCRIPT

JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, remembering baseball great Buck O’Neil. NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels tells the story.

ANNOUNCER: The man, the living legend, Buck O’Neil!

SPENCER MICHELS, NewsHour Correspondent: He was born John Jordan O’Neil in 1911. But to legions of baseball fans and players, he was known as “Buck.”

O’Neil barnstormed in the Negro Leagues as a solid hitting first baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1940s and won a batting title in ’46. He went on to manage the club to five pennants and two Negro League World Series.

O’Neil never played in the majors but broke down color barriers in baseball. In 1956, he became the first black scout signing future Hall-of-Famers Ernie Banks and Lou Brock for the Chicago Cubs. In 1962, the Cubs made O’Neil the first black coach ever hired by a Major League Baseball team.

This past February, O’Neil fell one vote short of election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but he spoke on behalf of the Negro Leagues at the induction ceremony this summer.

BUCK O’NEIL, Former Baseball Player and Coach: I’ve done a lot things I like doing, but I’d rather be right here right now representing them, these people that helped build a bridge across the chasm of prejudice.

SPENCER MICHELS: Buck O’Neil died last Friday night at the age of 94.