BUCK O'NEIL REPRESENTS THE NEGRO LEAGUE WELL
On a night Nike announced it was introducing a new line of Negro League gear, Buck O'Neil stole the show.
We were treated to one of the greatest athletes/entertainers/promoters of our century during a private get together at the Charles Wright Museum downtown Sunday night.
O'Neil is a former Negro League player who symbolizes the league. He is 95 years old, has the energy of a 20 year old and still tries to pick up the ladies. I'd give $1 million bucks right now to have his enthusiasm at 70.
"I've done a lot of things in my life," O'Neil. "I shook hands with President Truman. I shook hands with President Clinton. I hugged Hillary Clinton. But there is no where I would rather be than here with these great men who played in the Negro Leagues."
He was supposed to give a three-minute talk, but you knew immediately it was going to take longer for him to give his talk.
"It takes me three minutes to say good morning," he joked.
He was joined on stage by men like Joe Douse, Ron Teasley, Melvin Duncan, Marvin Jones, Harold "bebop" Gordon and later by Sweet Lou Johnson. It was great seeing the past and talking to them.
You should have seen the boy hook look in the eyes of former Tiger Cecil Fielder.
"Buck is my man, " Fielder gushed.
The two men embraced and Fielder told me how much he loved he man and how much he inspired him during his career.
He has us cracking up by telling the crowd about his best day. He hit for the cycle while playing for the Kansas City Monarchs. Later that night a group of school teachers came by his Memphis hotel to meet some players.
"I walked up to a young lady and said my name is Buck O'Neil," he said. "And she was my wife for 51 years."
It probably was not that simple. But then again knowing O'Neil, maybe it was.
Nike is going to introduce Negro League wear next year to celebrate Black History Month. But I encourage people to buy Negro League wear now. They have some neat uniforms and T-shirts that are colorful and support players and the Negro League Museum and the Negro League Players Association.
The best selection is on Nine Mile Road on the Oak Park-Ferndale line where Tony Dee owns a Negro League Apparel Shop. Call him at 248-543-3510 and drop by and do a little shopping.
I believe we should honor these men.