Celebrating how Kansas City sports legend Buck O’Neil connected so many diverse groups of people during his lifetime, officials on Thursday renamed the Broadway Bridge to honor him.
“A bridge is a perfect symbol for his life,” said Missouri Sen. Jason Holsman, who along with Sen. Ryan Silvey sponsored the legislation to rename the bridge.
At a dedication ceremony held at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, officials unveiled a green highway sign that in big white letters announced “John Jordan ‘Buck’ O’Neil Memorial Bridge.”
The sign was installed on the bridge Thursday afternoon.
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“He was an ambassador; he was a statesman,” said Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed. “He was not only someone who represented 18th and Vine, but someone who represented this entire region.”
Reed said he can’t help but think that the 42,000 people who travel across the bridge every day are going to think about him and want to explore his story.
“He was faithful to all of us in our community, and he will always serve as a reminder — as a true ambassador — to what Kansas City means to all of us,” Reed said. “He’s gone, but certainly not forgotten.”
The dedication came on the 10th anniversary of his death. O’Neil was baseball player and a manager for the Kansas City Monarchs from 1938 to 1955. He later became a scout and the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball.
O’Neil, however, was more widely known as a man who helped renew interest in the Negro Leagues and helped establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in 1990. He served as board chairman until his death in 2006.
During the dedication, speakers told their favorite stories about O’Neil. Kansas City Mayor Sly James said he was sad for today’s youth because O’Neil was no longer around for them to meet.
He said he can’t help but think how children’s lives would be changed knowing a “real, real hero, a real legend in the Negro Leagues, a real legend in baseball.”
Mamie Hughes of Kansas City said O’Neil was just like a big brother to her. She said it was very appropriate to rename the bridge in his honor.
“He gave himself to building bridges among people,” Hughes said. “The renaming of the Broadway Bridge to the John Jordan ‘Buck’ O’Neil is tremendous.”