On February 28, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced seventeen inductees from the Negro Leagues era. Astonishingly, Buck O’Neil, a Negro Leagues stand-out who has made the history of the Leagues known to millions of Americans was not deemed qualified for entry to the baseball shrine.
O’Neil, a three-time Negro Leagues all-star and life-long ambassador for the Leagues, is 94 years old and one of only two living former Negro Leagues players who were listed on the Hall of Fame ballot. His Hall of Fame ballot “candidates profile” states that his “life in baseball notes the quintessential experience of the Negro leagues.” [see the profile at http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/oneil_buck.htm
Among those elected to the Hall were Alex Pompez and Effa Manley (the first woman chosen for the Hall), both Negro Leagues owners. In both cases, Hall of Fame panel members described their contributions to developing and supporting the Negro Leagues over long periods of time.
Yet remarkably, the twelve member panel of academics and baseball historians failed to vote to induct Buck to the Hall, despite his eight decades as a player, manager, and historian of the Leagues. While the Hall should be commended for the bold selection of Effa Manley, in contrast her tenure with the League lasted a mere fourteen years.
Buck played from 1937 to 1955, including the last eight years as a player/manager. He was a three-time All-Star, won two batting tiles, and in eight years managed his team to four titles and two championships.
No panel member would speak on why Buck was not chosen, and the balloting is secret. When the panelists were asked about Buck’s exclusion, former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, the honorary chair of the panel, could only say that “Less than 1% of the people who played big league baseball are in the Hall of Fame.”
One Hall of Famer, Leo Durocher, played at around the same time as Buck, and managed for many years as well. Let’s compare Hall of Famer Leo Durocher’s career with Buck's:
Durocher: played 17 seasons, lifetime batting average .247 (career high: .286)
Buck: played 17 seasons, lifetime batting average .288 (career high: .353)
Durocher: managed 24 years, 3 pennants, 1 world series win.
Buck: player/manager for eight years, won four league titles.
For more on Buck, see http://www.pitchblackbaseball.com/nlotmbuckoneil.html