Ken Burns was ‘near tears’ after learning Buck O’Neil was chosen for Hall of Fame

·1 min read
CRAIG KOHLRUSS/ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Many people across the nation got their first introduction to Buck O’Neil through the documentary “Baseball.”

The Ken Burns film made its debut in 1994, and O’Neil was featured prominently. With a mix of humor and poignancy, O’Neil shared the story of what it was like to play in the Negro Leagues and finally breaking through to the major leagues as a coach and scout.

O’Neil also shared many wonderful baseball stories from his lifetime.

On Sunday, O’Neil was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 15 years after he was inexplicably passed over for the honor. O’Neil died a few months after being bypassed in 2006, but many people celebrated the news of his selection to the Hall of Fame, most notably at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

While not at the NLBM, Burns was thrilled the Early Baseball Era committee picked O’Neil and Bud Fowler, who in the 19th Century was the first Black player in professional baseball.

“Hey, it’s Ken Burns. They just announced that Bud Fowler and most importantly, Buck O’Neil just got into the Hall of Fame,” Burns said in a Facebook video. “I’m near tears. You know, 15 years ago, when Buck was still alive, he should have been leading the class that got in, and he didn’t and died shortly thereafter and now, he’s in.

“He’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever met on this planet. One of the best human beings, a great ambassador of baseball, and we’re just so happy and pleased, and I know that somewhere, Buck’s already in an even bigger Hall of Fame.”

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