The Buck O’Neil Award

On the whole, I’m in favor of the Hall of Fame memorializing Buck O’Neil with a Lifetime Achievement Award named in his honor. Given that we have little reason to believe that O’Neil was actually a great ballplayer, it would have been something of a sham to elect him to the Hall as a player solely on the basis of sticking around a long time and telling a lot of good stories. But given the relative paucity of written records of the Negro Leagues, O’Neil’s tireless charm in keeping the oral history of the Negro Leagues alive was surely worthy of a special place in Cooperstown as a service to the game.
What’s a shame is that the Hall couldn’t have found the time somewhere during the 94 years of O’Neil’s life to give him this honor.

3 thoughts on “The Buck O’Neil Award”

  1. Obviously, a lot of guys who have been actally elected to the Hall (Phil Rizzuto, Rixhie Ashburn, Red Shoendienst, etc) would more properly have deserved the Buck O’Neill award. I think it’s an appropriate honor.

  2. Good point. In my book, if there’s any doubt about a player’s hall of fame qualifications, he probably should not be there. The irony is that unofficial campaigns for hall of fame inductions always highlight the fact that “in addition to being a great player, he was a great guy and a great teammate.” The hall of fame is not just a large room with plaques for the game’s greatest, but also a museum. There is room in the museum for the very good players who were great guys.

  3. Just to play devil’s advocate, I wonder sometimes about the Scooter, and the denigration of his HOF qualifications. Incidentally, I was among the denigrators all during the 80s as the noise grew louder clamoring for his induction.
    But as we understand defensive stats a little better (or at least as Bill James explains them in Win Shares and The Latest Historical Abstract) it seems that Rizzuto may have been just below the Ozzie/Maranville/Marion level of overwhelming defensive excellence. In other words, not among the very, very best defensive shortstops of all time, but pretty close behind.
    Then you have to view him as a member of a team that won 8 World Series over a 15 year period. Plus, he squeezed an MVP in there.
    That being said, I still wouldn’t put him in the Hall. But he’s not a George Kelly or Rube Marquard level abomination either.

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