It’s been more than a decade since Buck O’Neil died, but his presence is still felt in Kansas City and, really, across the country.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame established the John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award a year after O’Neil’s passing. It honors “an individual whose efforts broadened the game’s appeal and whose character, integrity and dignity is comparable to the late O’Neil.”
The award is given out every three years, and the 2017 recipient will be Rachel Robinson, the widow of baseball great Jackie Robinson.
“I am honored that the Hall of Fame has invited me to receive the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award,” Robinson said in a release. “Buck O’Neil was such a champion of baseball — and the Hall of Fame does an extraordinary job of recognizing individuals who have committed their lives to this great game. I commend Jane Forbes Clark and Jeff Idelson for their leadership and extend my gratitude to the Board of Directors for recognizing me in this way.”
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According to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, Rachel Robinson incorporated the Jackie Robinson Development Corporation after her husband’s death in 1972. That builds and manages housing for people of moderate and low incomes. The next year, the website says, she created the Jackie Robinson Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide college scholarships and leadership training.
A release from the Hall of Fame notes that “Rachel married Jackie on Feb. 10, 1946, as Jackie was preparing for his first season in organized baseball. As a pillar of support through the challenging years that followed, Rachel provided Jackie the mental and spiritual encouragement needed to overcome the obstacles of being the first African American to appear in a modern Major League Baseball game with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947.”
O’Neil, the former Kansas City Monarchs player and Major League Baseball scout, was instrumental to the founding of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. He was the first recipient of the the Buck O’Neil Award in 2008. Roland Hemond, a former baseball executive who was general manager of the White Sox and then the Orioles, received the award in 2011. Former player and announcer Joe Garagiola won in 2014.
Robinson will receive the Buck O’Neil Award in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 29 as part of the Hall of Fame Weekend.