Former pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, KU Hospital executive honored with Buck O’Neil Legacy Awards

Updated: 2013-11-14T06:34:40Z


Special to The Star

Throughout his career in Major League Baseball, Independence native Rick Sutcliffe won numerous awards as a pitcher.

From the Rookie of the Year in 1979 with the Cubs to the Cy Young Award in 1984, Sutcliffe knew what it was like to be honored for his work between the white lines.

In 1987, Sutcliffe won an award that topped those. He got the Roberto Clemente Award, given to one player each year who succeeds on the field and in the community.

“The first thing you see when you walk in my house is that,” Sutcliffe said. “That means more to me in baseball than anything up to this point. But I never saw Roberto Clemente play.”

Sutcliffe knew Buck O’Neil well, so he was emotional to be one of two recipients of the Buck O’Neil Legacy Award on Wednesday at Gem Theater.

To receive the Buck O’Neil Legacy Award meant as much or more to Sutcliffe than any of the awards he earned as a player.

“I am a much better person because of getting to know Buck O’Neil,” Sutcliffe said. “Honestly, every time I hear his name, it changes you. It takes away, if there is any, anger or hate. You just want to go help somebody.”

That is O’Neil’s legacy. He gave every ounce of his being to help others. Sutcliffe saw it firsthand on many occasions at banquets and speaking engagements.

Bob Page, the University of Kansas Hospital’s chief executive officer, was the other recipient of the Buck O’Neil Legacy Award. Page never played in the majors, but he embodies the spirit of O’Neil by helping others. His business acumen and devotion to the Negro Leagues Museum were the reasons he was honored along with Sutcliffe.

“It is one of the most humbling things to happen in my life,” Page said. “I didn’t have a chance to know Buck O’Neil. I met him a couple of times. To receive an award in his honor is one of those pinch-me moments.”

Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Museums, said the museum will still honor current major-leaguers with Legacy awards, but the ceremony is over.

In its place will be the Hall of Game ceremony. The first one will be April 12, 2014. Page will be one of the co-chairs.

| David Boyce, special to The Star

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