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Hall Of Fame to bestow Buck O'Neil award

Dec 12, 2007

Hall to bestow Buck O'Neil award
Lifetime achievement award to be given in O'Neil's name,
statue to be unveiled
By Barry Bloom

BOSTON, MA. -- Buck O'Neil may be gone, but he's certainly
not forgotten.
The acclaimed late Negro League icon and American treasure
will be honored with a statue and an award in his honor,
the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday
evening shortly before Game One of the World Series between
the Red Sox and Rockies at Fenway Park.

"He's in Cooperstown where he belongs," said Commissioner
Bud Selig during a pregame press conference. "To say he was
a great ambassador is almost trite, but it's true in every
way."

The statue, to be designed and created by renowned sculptor
Williams Behrends, will be dedicated next July during the
annual Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award will honor an
individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball's
positive impact on society, has broadened the game's
appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are
comparable to the qualities exhibited by O'Neil.

The award will be bestowed by the Hall of Fame's Board of
Directors at its discretion, though not more frequently
than once every three years. O'Neil will be the first
recipient.

The statue will be flanked by a plaque describing O'Neil's
contributions during eight decades in baseball and another
listing the award winners, said Jane Forbes Clark, chairman
of the Hall of Fame.

"Buck touched every facet of baseball, and his impact was
among the greatest the game has ever known," Clark said.
"The Board recognizes this impact Buck had on millions of
people, as he used baseball to teach lessons of life, love
and respect. His contributions to the game go well beyond
the playing field. This award will recognize future
recipients who display the spirit Buck showed every day of
his life."

The announcement comes a little over a year after O'Neil's
death on October 6, 2006. Earlier that summer, he was the
keynote speaker at Induction Ceremony honoring 17 of his
Negro League and pre-Negro League brethren (12 players and
five executives). Among them was the first woman ever to
have a plaque hung in the Hall -- Effa Manley, the co-owner
and business manager of the Newark Eagles.

Without missing a beat, O'Neil opened his remarks with
these three words: "This is outstanding."

A 12-person committee selected by the Hall's Board of
Directors and headed by former Major League Baseball
Commissioner Fay Vincent, reviewed the careers of numerous
former Negro League players and executives and voted to
induct 17 of them. O'Neil fell short of election.

"I don't think this is necessarily trying to right a
wrong," said Joe Morgan, the Hall of Fame second baseman
who is a member of the Board of Directors. "We're just
trying to honor a person. There are a lot of people who are
not elected to the Hall of Fame that the public, myself
included, think should be in the Hall of Fame, and
therefore they're not.

"It doesn't mean that we should try to go out and fix
something. I think Buck O'Neil is a unique person. Things
he did for the game, things he did for the community,
things he did for our country, I think he is a unique
individual and that's why you see this."

O'Neil, who played, managed and coached in the Negro
Leagues, broke a formidable color barrier in 1962 when the
Cubs made him the first African-American coach in Major
League history. The new honor will continue his legacy.

Behrends, whose statute of O'Neil is earmarked for a
prominent place in the museum, is famous for his work
within baseball circles. He has also created bronze statues
of Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey the
surround AT&T Park in San Francisco, Tony Gwynn at PETCO
Park in San Diego and Jackie Robinson with Pee Wee Reese in
New York City.

"His work is magnificent, and we are looking forward to him
capturing Buck's enormous character," Clark said.