A Damn Shame
Over the weekend a special panel of 12 voters selected 17 people out of 100 candidates from the Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues to be enshrined in baseball’s Hall of Fame. The vote, announced yesterday, was the outcome of long, complicated process during which the records of the 100 candidates and their various teams had to be painstakingly reconstructed before a decision could even be contemplated. The people finally chosen, none of whom are alive, included former players and executives.
Regrettably, two candidates who are alive, Buck O’Neil and Minnie Minoso, were not elected. That is a shame, a damn shame.
O’Neil and Minoso deserved election on merit alone for their records as a coach and player respectively. More to the point, the two have been and remain important links to the Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues as well as extraordinary ambassadors of the game itself. Neither man wanted the sympathy vote but you have to ask yourself what would it have cost baseball to acknowledge their many contributions on and off the field?
O'Neil, 94 years old, became a household name when he “starred” as a raconteur and commentator in Ken Burns’ documentary on baseball in the 1990’s. Prior to that, he had already established his credentials. His career began in the 1930s and concluded with him batting a combined .288 and appearing in several All-Star games. Following his playing days, O'Neil became a scout with the Chicago Cubs. He was later named the first black coach in MLB by the Cubs in 1962 and is credited with signing Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Lou Brock to their first pro contracts. He worked as scout for the Kansas City Royals since 1988 and was named "Midwest Scout of the Year" in 1998.
O’Neil also played an instrumental role in helping to build the Negro League museum in Kansas City. Ironically, he also served on the Hall's Veterans Committee for nearly two decades.
Minoso, 83 years old, played 17 years in the majors, primarily with the Chicago White Sox and hit .298 over his career. He was a seven-time All-Star and won three Gold Gloves in the outfield.
Following the disappointing vote, he had this to say:
"I know that baseball fans have me in their own Hall of Fame -- the one in their hearts. That matters more to me than any official recognition. If it's meant to be, it's meant to be, and I am truly honored to be considered. I've given my life to baseball, and the game has given me so much.”
How hard would it have been to acknowledge what these men gave the game while they were still alive to enjoy the tributes?