Lifetime achievement award to be given in O'Neil's name, statue to be unveiled
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.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com
25 Main Street · Cooperstown, NY · 13326
|City Beat (March 26, 2008)
By Nazneen Miah | Mar 25, 2008, 09:27
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History You Can Wear
Detroit is an intricate, well-built nest, historically and presently, of African-American history. The city was an integral part of the Underground Railroad and is home to one of the longest-running branches of the NAACP, which opened its doors in The D in 1912.Motown is also commemorated with many historical monuments and the Charles H. Wright museum is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being a pioneer of its kind. We can be proud to say that Tony Dee’s Negro League Apparel can be added to the roster of historical and renowned Afro-centric establishments in the Detroit area.
Tony Dee’s rhetoric, when recalling the history of the Negro League, is packed with passion. “I’m a bit of a historian — well, I’m more than a bit of a historian,” says Dee. Though he has seen his dream manifest into reality, the man is humble. A vendor's booth at the State Fair is where Tony Dee began his journey, one that would one day lead him to be one of the largest Negro League and historically African-American apparel retailers in the country. So, all you Jordan jersey-wearin’ ballers take note: these are the real throw-backs.
Walking into his store, you wouldn't get an immediate sense of what an impact Tony Dee’s Negro League Apparel is making across the country. It almost looks like a booth at a flea market that exploded into a small, fully-functional storefront. Looking a little closer, the allure reveals itself. It's one of those “finds” that the metro-Detroit area is so famous for. The walls are littered with photos and newspaper clippings pertaining to the Negro Baseball League and just about every other open space is lined with racks full of T-shirts. The spinning racks in the center of the store are full of leather jackets with Tuskegee Airmen and Buffalo Soldier emblems. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are not overlooked in this store. You can buy hats and T-shirts from Howard, Morris Brown College and many other HBCUs — if you want it, Tony Dee’s got it.
Tony Dee is the official Negro League retailer for the Tigers and he has two booths set up in Comerica Park. Dee outfits the Tigers with uniforms when they have their annual Negro League commemorative weekend every fourth Saturday of July; The original red star wool jerseys from the Detroit Stars (Detroit’s Negro League baseball team) are worn by the Tigers and the opposing team wears a jersey from their town. Tony Dee’s is the only place to get these jerseys. He has members from the Detroit Stars in his store signing autographs that weekend and Dee is the point-man for all the festivities. He even has the Star of David baseball jersey from the Detroit Jewish League. His store is almost like a museum with all the American history inside.
As for what Dee has to say about his store: “I don’t sell junk — top-quality merchandise only. This is a store you'll remember ... and I’ll always sell you quality, so you’ll come back and bring a friend.”
Check out this mini-monument and see for yourself how much history is in there … history you can wear. | RDW
Batter up: tonydeesnegroleague.com