Monday, October 09, 2006

Buck O'Neil

We met Buck O’Neil in March of 2004. My son Joey and I were in Arizona to see some Spring Training. We saw Buck at one of the stadiums where the Royals were visiting. I don’t recall which stadium or which team the Royals were playing that day, but I do recall it being a warm, beautiful day. Of course, all days in Arizona are beautiful in March.

We were walking through the stadium looking for our seats when we spotted Buck near the field greeting folks, shaking hands, hugging ladies and signing baseballs for kids. I sent Joey down to get his autograph.

Any kid who asked Buck for an autograph will have this same story, but it is special nonetheless. Buck told Joey that he didn’t want to sign his ball unless Joey could prove that he could catch it. He sent Joey up the steps and then he tossed the ball to Joey. Joey brought it back and Buck told him to scoot back a little more. Another toss and another catch.

Buck then signed Joey’s ball and ruffled his cap. Joey’s 13 now, so he won’t admit how special it was. But I believe Joey does recognize the impact that Buck had on baseball and Kansas City.

I’ve seen and met Buck several times both in Arizona and in Kansas City, and I’ve always been amazed at how gracious he was. He was a special man.

Our family felt a short, sad moment when we heard Buck had passed. But, Buck himself said “don’t shed a tear for me.”