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Buck O'Neil talks about Hall of Fame rejection

On Tuesday's Countdown, Hall of Famer Ernie Banks voiced his displeasure with the nominating committee that turned down his mentor Buck O'Neil for inclusion into the hall.  On Wednesday, Keith Olbermann asked the Negro League legend himself when he joined Countdown for an interview.
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Wednesday morning, Jason Whitlock wrote in the “Kansas City Star” that the baseball Hall of Fame needed Buck O'Neil far more than Buck O'Neil needed the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame largely thought the courteous but persistant prodding of people like Buck O'Neil held one final vote results announced the day before yesterday to honor those whose careers were largely or entirely limited to the old Negro leagues. Before Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier in 1947 and before Buck O'Neil broke a second color barrier when he became the first man of color to become a coach with the Chicago Cubs 15 years later.

It was assumed that O'Neil and former Chicago White Sox's star Minnie Minoso would finally be elected to the Hall of Fame, they were not 17 others were. The committee members refused to explain who voted for or against these men, it was a yes or no vote on each candidate. They did not either explain their rationales for their votes. 

Many reacted in anger, but not Buck himself. He said the committee did its best, he was happy that so many of his peers and predecessors were finally given their due and since all of them had already passed away he volunteered to speak on their behalf at the induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York this summer. 

Buck O’Neil joined Keith Olbermann on ‘Countdown’ to speak out about the Hall of Fame voting.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, ‘COUNTDOWN’:  There are a lot of us in the Buck O'Neil fan club who are or who were really angry or really broken hearted that the election turned out the way it did. But you very obviously and very publicly are not. Why aren't you? 

BUCK O'NEIL:  I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get in, but I think the people that was on that committee did the voting, they were voting just what they thought it should be. I can't hold that against anyone. I did have a chance you know. If I hadn't had a chance, now I would have been bitter, like, oh, I couldn't attend Sarasota High School. They didn't give me a chance. But with this, they gave me a chance to get into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. I just didn't make it.

OLBERMANN:  On a program last night I interviewed a young man that you know, Mr. Ernie Banks who was your shot stop at the Kansas City Monarchs just about 56 years ago.  And he said something I would like to play it and then I would like to get your reaction to what he said. 


ERNIE BANKS, BASEBALL HALL OF FAME MEMBER:  Keith, I was totally disappointed in the results of this vote. I'm in the Hall of Fame because of Buck O'Neil. I spent many time and many years with him. He's a scout and a teacher. He saw something in me when I first arrived with the Kansas City Monarchs that I didn't see in myself. He's that type of person.  He can really pull the skills that a person has out.  I love this man. He's a great human being.  I'm totally disappointed he didn't make it into the Baseball Hall of Fame.


OLBERMANN:  So Buck Ernie says you got him in the Hall of Fame, you got Lou Brock in the Hall of Fame too and he said really that you got all those 17 people who got in on Monday into the Hall of Fame when you didn't and Ernie says he's totally disappointed you are not going in. I agree with him, many of us agree with him. What do you suggest those of us admire you do about our disappointment? 

O'NEIL:  I don't know what you can do.  Really, as far as me going in to Cooperstown.  But I thank all of you that you feel the way that you feel. I feel that I could be in Cooperstown.  I think I put the numbers down   -- I put the numbers up that would lead you into the Hall of Fame. A lot of people there are talking about the other things I accomplished off the field, which is wonderful, but listen, I could play. I played a year and made one error. I hit the ball, I just happened to be a line drive hitter, not the home run hitter.  But I drove in the runs; I could do all these things. 

But I think, you know, with me, my greatest accomplishment might have been starting the Negro League Baseball Museum here in Kansas City, which tells that story.  So, if it's to be one day I might be in the Hall of Fame. But I just want to thank all of the people that felt the way that they are feeling right now. But don't weep for Buck. Just feel happy, like I am, being thankful, like I am, that I can do and have done the things that I did do.

OLBERMANN:  I'm not going to try to talk you out of being OK with this. If this cup is half full, god bless you we could learn a lot of that from you.  But I do want to ask you this, Ernie Banks said last night that he thinks the work of that special committee is not done yet, that it should not be disbanded and it has more people to elect and honor from the Negro leagues and whether it is Cannonball Dick Redding or it's John Donnellson or it is Minnie Monsoso or it is Buck O'Neil should there be another vote next year?

O'NEIL:  Now, had I been elected, I was going to preach. Because I think everybody was on that list was qualified should be in the Hall of Fame, really.  And that's what I was going to preach if I had been in. But now I can't preach that because they would be thinking I'm just preaching for Buck O'Neil. 

OLBERMANN:  I don't think anybody would ever think that. I've been asking for three nights now if the voters who did not vote for you or for Minnie Minoso, would identify themselves and at least explain what they were thinking. The voters all say they have been asked by the Hall of Fame to keep their voting confidential, Hall of Fame spokesman told me that's not true. They can talk if they want to. Do you have an opinion about that?  Should they explain why they did or did not vote for anybody in particular including you?

O'NEIL:  They should if they wanted to. If they wanted to explain why they didn't vote for Buck, yes, they should, they should have that privilege to do or not to do.  But I don't see why they wouldn't explain why they didn't.  I don't know why they would or wouldn't. But we'll see. Maybe somebody will come and say something after while.

OLBERMANN:  Let me ask you before we go about the great star of the Chicago White Sox Minnie Monoso who didn't get to play in the majors until he was 28. Basically because of first cousin barrier, then because of quota system.  Sixth highest batting average from 1951 to 1963. And just like you a great ambassador for the game, if you are not mad about Buck O'Neil not getting into the Hall of Fame are you mad about Minnie Minoso not getting into the Hall of Fame?

O'NEIL:  I don't think Minnie should have been on this ballot, the Negro league ballet. Minnie Minoso should be on the major league ballet. He played in the Negro league maybe two years. But he put up the numbers in the major leagues and I think he should go in the Hall of Fame on that committee. 

OLBERMANN:  As you put up the numbers with the Kansas City Monarchs both as a player and a manager. Buck I said this 10 years ago when we sat down to talk about Jackie Robinson and I will say it again. It's an honor just to know you sir and thank you for everything you have done for baseball, thank you for everything you have done for this country.