October 6, 2006 John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil, Negro League baseball player and manager and the first African American to coach in the major leagues, died.
O’Neil was born November 13, 1911 in Carrabelle, Florida. In 1937, he signed a contract with the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro League. The next year his contract was sold to the Kansas City Monarchs where he played first base for the next 12 seasons.
In 1948, O’Neil was named manager of the Monarchs and served in that capacity for eight seasons. After resigning from the Monarchs in 1955, he became a scout for the Chicago Cubs and is credited for signing Hall of Famer Lou Brock to his first contract. In 1962, he was named the first black coach in the major leagues by the Cubs. In 1988, O’Neil became a scout for the Kansas City Royals and in 1998 was named Midwest Scout of the Year.
In 1990, O’Neil led the effort to establish the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri and served as honorary board chairman until his death. On December 7, 2006, O’Neil was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush.
In 2007, the Baseball Hall of Fame inaugurated the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award and posthumously made O’Neil the first recipient. His autobiography, “I Was Right on Time: My Journey from the Negro Leagues to the Majors,” was published in 1997.