Passing the Buck (Keith Olbermannn)
He was an overnight celebrity at the age of 84, turned into one of the faces of baseball by the Ken Burns documentary.
Buck O'Neil -- a living link to the great stars who were prevented from reaching the Major Leagues because of the color barrier that would not fall until 1947. Himself Jackie Robinson's teammate with the legendary Kansas City Monarchs, later their manager. Even now, at the age of 94, one of the great ambassadors of any sport. And yesterday, baseball might as well have told Buck O'Neill to get lost.
Yesterday was the day the game elected to its Hall of Fame, 17 heroes of the era of the "Negro Leagues ." The last such election scheduled. Ever. And Buck O'Neill was not elected.
A special committee first selected 94 candidates... Then pared it down to 39 finalists... Then yesterday announced the 17 inductees. O'Neil didn't make the cut. Nor did Minnie Minoso -- himself prevented from playing in the majors until he was 27 years old because of the color of his skin. Minoso went on to record the sixth highest batting average in all of baseball during the prime of his career, 1951 through 1963.
Snubbing Minoso and O'Neil -- apparently for all time -- is extraordinary enough. But only baseball could make it worse. In honoring the Negro Leagues -- it managed to exclude O'Neill and Minoso -- but did elect two white people.
James Leslie Wilkinson was the founder of those Kansas City Monarchs -- Jackie Robinson's team before he broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Wilkinson was a white businessman. And today's election also made a Hall of Famer out of Effa Manley... She was the owner of the Newark Eagles of the Negro American League. It sounds almost impossible to believe -- but she too was white -- married to a black man -- and she pretended to be -- as the term was, then, "passed" -- as a light-skinned black.
Most of the 17 electees yesterday were entirely deserving. Such legendary figures as Sol White and Biz Mackey and Jose Mendez will achieve in death and in the Hall of Fame something they were denied in life. Just to twist the knife a little further into Buck O'Neil, the special committee elected Alex Pompez, owner of the New York Cubans team... Also an organized crime figure... Part of the mob of the infamous '30s gangster Dutch Schultz... Indicted in this country and Mexico for racketeering.
He's in the Hall of Fame. For all time. Buck O'Neil is not. It is not merely indefensible. For all the many stupid things the Baseball Hall of Fame has ever done... This is the worst.
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Curt Gowdy: A tribute (Keith Olbermann)
Childhood unofficially ended for several generations of sports fans Yesterday. Curt Gowdy died. It is impossible to comprehend his ubiquitousness in the sports world from the 1960's to the late 1970's. A peck of controversial comments by sports casters and sports heroes alike, consider the impossibility of anyone producing a resume that looked like this.
Curt Gowdy announced 13 World Series and nine Super Bowls, eight Olympics, 14 Rose Bowls, 24 college basketball championships and 16 baseball all-star games. Nearly all of that resume here at NBC. Plus, there were two years announcing the games of the New York Yankees and 10 of the Boston Red Sox. Never overselling, rarely yelling, Curt Gowdy sounded, in the words of essayist John Updike, like everybody's brother-in-law.
And there was a sincerity to the man. NBC sportscaster Al Michaels told me on the radio on Monday that when he was a student at Arizona State he asked Gowdy for career advice and Gowdy responded by listening to tapes of Michaels' college broadcasts. Curt Gowdy suffering for several years from leukemia, died in Florida on Monday. He was 86 years old.
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