There will be a Watch Party for John “Buck” O’Neil in Overland, Park, Kansas, this afternoon, but most people will never know it because much of the event will not be covered by local or national media. The room, however, will be full of authors, educators, historians, fans, friends, and Negro League enthusiasts who know this day won’t occur for another ten years based on current rules established by the Baseball Hall of Fame. In a town where O’Neil was as much beloved before his death, as Pat Mahomes is now, we ask what role does media play? In theory, we could be looking at another, “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment in history. RSVP requests are large and diversified for the event in Overland Park.
We were first out the gate with an announcement of our Watch Party on Sunday, November 28. A Watch Party announcement from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum came later. On December 2, Ken Burns, internationally known documentary maker, messaged his 184.4K Twitter followers, that, “There’s one place to be this Sunday.” Burns was referring to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star nearly duplicated that statement in a Sunday, December 5, article titled, “Why the ‘one place to be this Sunday’ is the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.” Truth is, both are wrong! There should not be one place. This history needs to be celebrated in many places. These statements highlight my growing concerns with major league baseball (MLB) and national media sources, and how the business of Negro Baseball Leagues’ history is being handled. Celebrations, other than the one at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City were quickly banished with little encouragement by the media. The popular personalities representing these organizations were curiously silent. That historians, who have written nearly 30 books and who for years have left a lasting impact on baseball history, were gathering didn’t seem to excite them. That others dared to celebrate this day, in another place with authors, fans, and families of ballplayers threw the media into a tizzy.
Truth is, there should be parities like this all over the nation, but nearly every place that touts the Negro Leagues as their thing planned nothing! Our Hall of Fame watch night is about more than O’Neil, and having known him for many years before we, together with three other people co-founded, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, I’m certain he would have said the same. O’Neil would have been proud that we are giving a Watch Party in his honor. He would be cheering for everyone else on the ballot I’m sure. He would be happy to know that Larry Lester and Lloyd Johnson are still on the job promoting this history after 40 plus years and that they would be attracting a crowd to his honor him on what we hope will be a historic day in the O’Neil legacy. He certainly would have welcomed Watch Parties of any nature to highlight this history, knowing many places should be celebrating.
Both the 16-member Golden Era Committees, 1950-1969, and the 16-member Special Early Baseball Overview Committee pre-1950, were appointed by the board of directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to replace the National Baseball Hall of Fame Committee on Baseball Veterans of which O’Neil was once a member. These committees were established to consider and select eligible candidates to the Hall of Fame who were not elected on prior ballots by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. In 2014 the Golden Era Committee threw a shutout! Nobody got in – 10 candidates, no selections. This time there are Negro Leaguers on the pre-1950 ballot.
For the first time since 2006, (fifteen years) Negro League players are back on the ballot. In addition to O’Neil and fellow Kansas City Monarch John Donaldson, the Early Baseball Era ballot includes but is not limited to Bill Dahlen, Vic Harris, John “Bud” Fowler, Lefty O’Doul, Allie Reynolds, George Scales, Dick “Cannonball” Redding, and Grant “Home Run” Johnson.
A reasonable argument could be made for the enshrinement of all 7 of the Negro Leaguers. Nationally there should be more than two events. There should be many places to view and attend activities.
In Kansas City, the announcement should be broadcast on the big screen in the Power Light District where Kansas City Royals World Series and Chiefs’ football games are broadcast. The major league baseball Royals should be hosting something, they have a legacy seat in Buck’s honor. The teams that have been dressing up in Negro League uniform for promotion events, both major and minor league, should be hosting events. In Pittsburgh, the Pirates or the Josh Gibson Foundation should be active for Vic Harris. On the HBCU campus of Talladega College where Scales attended college and on the campus of Morris Brown where Redding attended college there should be events. There should be some activities planned in Glasgow, Missouri, for John Donaldson, where they recently named a local field in honor of their hometown hero. The Negro Southern League Museum in Birmingham had lots of reasons to host a watch party. There should be watch parties in Ohio for “Home Run” Johnson. There should be an event in Topeka, Kansas where Fowler once played minor league baseball. Why is there nothing in New York for Scales, the long-time manager of the New York Black Yankees? Where ever Negro League baseball was played some kind of celebration should be given, even if it is just a house party broadcasted live over Facebook or Twitter, something could have been planned.
I took this Watch Party celebration to heart and organized a much-needed event in Overland Park, Kansas at a minority owned restaurant. Without the support of any national sponsors, and certainly without most of the local and none of the national media we have a gathering that would make John “Buck” O’Neil and all of Negro baseball proud. Regardless of who is enshrined, we’ll be back rooting and writing on the others as soon as possible and discussing what we can do to keep this history alive.
The watch party will take place, Sunday, December 5, 2021, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the KC Daiquiri Shop Bistreaux, 8725 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park, Kansas, and will comfortably host 100 guests. You may RSVP with an email to email@example.com. The venue is decked out with televisions so attendees can view the Hall of Fame selections in real-time. As you enjoy a scrumptious meal from the special order menu, prizes for the most uniquely signed original “Buck” collectible, along with a raffle every 15 minutes with items from the Kansas City Monarchs American Association baseball team, books, and other items will be given away. Bring any publication written by Larry Lester or Lloyd Johnson and these well-known authors, they are happy to sign. We anticipate a big announcement for “Buck” and the other candidates on the ballots.