- September 23, 2015
Nov. 24 1994
In 1994, a local group that included Roy McBean, Kerry Kirschner, Jack Gurney and former Kansas City Royals Manager Hal McRae went before the County Natural Resources Advisory Board to ask for support to rename the baseball complex at Twin Lakes Park in honor of Sarasota native John “Buck” O’Neil.
O’Neil was known locally as a baseball legend, and in 1994, he contributed to the 18-and-a-half-hour PBS documentary “Baseball.” The project was produced by Ken Burns and relied on O’Neil’s experience of playing for the Negro American League from 1938 to 1954.
Growing up in Sarasota from 1924 to 1947, O’Neil remembered what it was like to navigate through discrimination and segregation as a young black man.
“There was a big difference between Sarasota and other small towns in Florida back then,” O’Neil said in a 1994 issue of the Pelican Press. “Yes, prejudice was a problem, but there were no lynchings. Good families like the Ringlings had a positive influence.”
O’Neil played first baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League from 1934-54 and took break from baseball to serve with the all-black U.S. Navy stevedore in the Philippines. When he returned from serving in World War II won the Negro American League batting title with a 0.350 average in 1946.
His career as a player included appearances at three Negro League East-West All-Star Games and three Negro League World Series. He then became the Monarchs player-manager from 1948-54 then manager in 1955. As a manager, O’Neil helped the Monarchs win five pennants and sent 14 players to major leagues teams.
O’Neil’s time in the majors came in 1956 as a talent scout for the Chicago Cubs before becoming the first black coach of a major league team in 1962 for the Cubs. He finished out his career as a part-time scout and consultant for the Kansas City Royals in 1989.
Nov. 24, 1983
Jane Walden, a first grade teacher at Out-of-Door Academy, discusses native vegetables with Jennis Morris and David Walden as the school prepares for the annual Thanksgiving feast held for the students.