A True Legend
As I shook this living legends, large soft leathery hand, I felt honored. In 2003 I was an intern in Kansas City, MO. On one particular day, I learned that one of the people who worked there was a friend of Buck’s. I was most excited to be graced by John “Buck” O’Neil’s, the former Negro Baseball League player, visits to my place of employment.
The first time I met him, I was stunned by his tall frame, his enthusiastic demeanor, positive attitude and how he was sharp. He was very interested in what I did at my job, what I was doing with my life and how I was doing. I thought to myself, a genuine celebrity, and he’s just a normal person carrying on a conversation with me of all people! There was this kindness that radiated off of him, he wasn’t standoffish at all like some stars and didn’t mind all the attention and questions he got every time he visited.
Upon first meeting him I had so many questions for him, after all he was a living legend in Kansas City and had seen many things in his lifetime. Playing for the Negro Baseball League and doing so much in the Kansas City community, I wondered how an old man stayed so busy. Then I learned that my co-workers and I only saw him as older, but I I’m pretty sure in his mind he was still a youth. When I met him the first time it was 2003 and he was 90 some years old and still sharp as a tack. He never started a conversation with “You young folk” or “Young people today”, he had knowledge and caring for today’s youth he never spoke about them in a negative or stereotypical light as some older folks tend to do. Although the conversations he held with me where brief, I felt I had received wisdom each time he spoke to me.
I told him about how I was in school and just working for the summer, what my major field of study was and so forth. He advised me to stay in school, of coarse, and to do well. He would tell our department that he was doing’ “just fine” when asked how he was doing. The last time I saw him on was on a fairly warm January afternoon in 2006, I remember him saying how he had to go out to Swope Park to hit the golf course for the rest of the day. Not even winter was going to stop him from getting his golf on.
I was a senior in college when I learned of his health beginning to fail and when he passed on. I was saddened greatly, but remembered what a full life this man had lived and how his beautiful glowing personality had affected me on his first visit.
This weekend I learned that in honor of “Buck”, they made a statue in memoriam at the cemetery where he rests. I reflected on the times that I was able to visit with him and how he always, always had a positive message and a beautiful smile to share. Some old people get forgetful and grumpy, with some their health starts to fail and they give up totally, but though those signs were not prevalent in Mr. O’Neil I think even if they were he would have pressed on, just because that was his spirit.
I am sure I am one in the thousands who met him and of whom he left an everlasting mark on, and I am so glad that I was able to meet him and visit with him on those occasions. I most definitely think that we all should embody the spirit of which he had which was a positive attitude, optimistic encouraging outlook on life and a beautiful personality.