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Buck O'Neil Gets Presidential Medal of Freedom

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Deeper_Background, Dec 8, 2006.

  1. Deeper_Background

    Deeper_Background Active Member

    WASHINGTON - This is bigger than the Hall of Fame.

    Kansas City icon Buck O'Neil - famously denied election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame this year - has been posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, the White House announced Thursday.

    O'Neil, the longtime Kansas City Monarch, worked tirelessly to ensure that the Negro Leagues were respectfully remembered decades after the playing fields fell silent. Along the way, he became a stout-hearted, storytelling treasure.

    He died in October at age 94.

    "John `Buck' O'Neil represented excellence and determination both on and off the baseball field," read the White House news release. "He was a talented player and manager in the Negro Leagues, became major league baseball's first African-American coach and was a co-founder of and inspiration for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum."

    The distinction places O'Neil in a pantheon of greats who have received the medal: From actors John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart to astronaut Neil Armstrong. From civil rights legends Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., to comics Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. From playwright Tennessee Williams to former Presidents John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

    And Britain's Margaret Thatcher. And Egypt's Anwar Sadat.

    "This kind of honor would have been the pinnacle for him in many respects," Bobby Kendrick, marketing director of the Negro Leagues museum in Kansas City, said at a news conference announcing the award.

    "There was no one prouder to be an American than Buck O'Neil," Kendrick said, recalling the importance that O'Neil placed in singing the national anthem at Negro League games. "Despite the hardships that were occurring as a result of his skin, he refused to accept the fact that he was anything less than American."

    O'Neil will be among 10 honorees recognized Dec. 15 at a White House ceremony.

    The others are historians David McCullough and Paul Johnson, bluesman B.B. King, human-rights activist Natan Sharansky, columnist William Safire, politician Norm Mineta, Nobel Prize-winning scientist Joshua Lederberg, Xavier University President Norman Francis and literacy activist Ruth Johnson Colvin.

    President Harry S. Truman established the Medal of Freedom in 1945 to recognize meritorious wartime service. Kennedy re-introduced it in 1963 as a civilian award. The medal has been bestowed on more than 300 luminaries in medicine, the arts, journalism and politics, among other endeavors.

    Recipients from the world of sports have included baseball's Joe DiMaggio, boxer Muhammad Ali, track star Jesse Owens and golfer Jack Nicklaus.

    Kendrick recalled the day in 2000 when presidential candidate George W. Bush toured the Negro Leagues museum with O'Neil. Like any other baseball fan, Bush hit it off with the affable ambassador.

    The White House would not say how O'Neil had been selected or whether the White House was responding to the uproar that followed the announcement that O'Neil had been denied entrance to the baseball hall. A spokesman deferred all such questions until President Bush conducts the award ceremony.

    Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat, who knew O'Neil for years, commended Bush because "Buck O'Neil had a lot of lessons for us. He never grew old, and we cannot allow his memory to grow cold."

    Cleaver also joked: "It turns out, even in death, you can't stop Buck O'Neil."

    Family members and representatives of the Negro Leagues museum will attend the event. Warren O'Neil, Buck's 91-year-old brother, is expected to receive the medal on Buck's behalf.

    The medal caps a bittersweet year for Kansas City and O'Neil.

    A special election committee charged with naming key Negro League figures to the Hall of Fame inexplicably left out O'Neil when it voted in February. But O'Neil attended the summer induction ceremonies in a role that he filled for years - the gracious, cheerful ambassador of the Negro Leagues.

    Also last summer, Congress, led by Cleaver and Republican Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri, designated Kansas City's museum as "America's National Negro Leagues Museum."

    O'Neil testified for the bill, telling a Senate committee: "During my 94 years I have learned a lot, but most importantly I have learned that love and education can heal all wounds."

    Two years ago, O'Neil's enthusiastic work had helped persuade Sen. Kit Bond, a Missouri Republican, to earmark $500,000 for the museum's Buck O'Neil Research and Education Center.

    "This certainly lessens the pain of Buck not getting into the Hall of Fame," Kendrick said. "This is as high an honor as any civilian can ever be awarded. It speaks not only to his illustrious baseball career but also to his impact on our society. That moves far beyond the baseball field."

    Museum officials say they hope to exhibit the medal.
    Rick Montgomery of McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this report.
  2. heyabbott

    heyabbott Well-Known Member

    Re: Buck O'Neal Awarded Presidential Medal of Honor

    Well deserved but late.

    On a similar note, since every loserBushboy that failed in Iraq and Katrina got the Medal, will Rumsfled? Or does he already have one?
  3. Claws for Concern

    Claws for Concern Active Member

    Re: Buck O'Neal Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Good to see this happen.
  4. Deeper_Background

    Deeper_Background Active Member

    Re: Buck O'Neal Gets Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Can you name these people please?
  5. Simon

    Simon Active Member

    Re: Buck O'Neal Gets Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Can you at least spell his name right?
  6. Oz

    Oz Well-Known Member

    Re: Buck O'Neal Gets Presidential Medal of Freedom

    No, he can't.
  7. Columbo

    Columbo Active Member

    Re: Buck O'Neal Gets Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Rumsfled is good.
  8. Re: Buck O'Neal Gets Presidential Medal of Freedom

    That would be Tenet, Franks, and the other idiot.
    This is the first good thing Fredo's done since 2002, and not just because it makes those HOF dummies look even worse. BB's a good choice, too.
  9. heyabbott

    heyabbott Well-Known Member

    Re: Buck O'Neal Gets Presidential Medal of Freedom

    L. Paul Bremer III, Tommy R. Franks, and George J. Tenet
  10. Deeper_Background

    Deeper_Background Active Member

    Re: Buck O'Neal Gets Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Before or after the Iraq campaign started?
  11. RokSki

    RokSki New Member

    Are we listening, baseball HOF?
  12. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Why did this have to wait until after he died at the age of 94?

    A lovely honor, but far too late. The man should have enjoyed it in his lifetime.
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