December 15, 2006

December 15, 2006

President Bush bestows high honor on Buck O’Neil....

WASHINGTON D.C. | Buck O’Neil was celebrated at the White House Friday as Kansas City knew him for decades: A baseball legend who made America a better place. “A beautiful human being,” concluded President Bush as he posthumously bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on O’Neil and nine other recipients at a festive East Room ceremony.

O’Neil died in October at age 94. His brother, Warren O’Neil, accepted on his behalf. While Buck couldn’t be there, his indomitable spirit filled the ornate room as Bush recounted a life of athleticism and grace. “He joined the Negro League in 1938, as a first baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs.

Buck O’Neil won two batting titles and played on nine championship teams, and as a manager, guided the Monarchs to four league titles. After finishing his playing career, Buck O’Neil joined the Chicago Cubs as a scout, and later as the first African American coach in the major leagues.

He never did slow down. For the rest of his life, he was active in baseball – not just from the stands or the dugout.” “In July of this year, he took a turn at bat in a minor-league All-Star game in Kansas City. They wisely pitched around him - he drew a walk at the age of 94. “Buck O’Neil is also remembered as one of the game’s best historians and ambassadors.

He was the driving force behind the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum; he was proud to be its chairman. But he once said: “It never should have been, a Negro League. Shouldn’t have been. “Buck O’Neil lived long enough to see the game of baseball, and America, change for the better. He’s one of the people we can thank for that.

Buck O’Neil was a legend, and he was a beautiful human being. And we honor the memory of Buck O’Neil.” Also receiving the medal was historian David McCullough, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning Truman stands as the definitive portrait of the man from Independence, the country’s 33rd president. In lauding McCullough’s work, Bush quoted Truman, saying “The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know.”