In Buck’s own words

On Satchel Paige and the famous “Nancy” story

“Well, he called me ‘Nancy’ because of something that happened once. We were up on an Indian reservation in North Dakota, and Satchel met an Indian maiden there whose name was Nancy. So Satchel invited Nancy to come to Chicago to see him. He didn’t know that Lahoma, who was going to be his wife, was coming to Chicago. So Nancy got there and she was up in Satchel’s room, naturally. And we were down in the restaurant, and here comes Lahoma up in a cab. So I go up to Satchel’s room and I say, ‘Lahoma’s downstairs.’ He says, ‘OK. Do something with Nancy.’ I was in a room right next to Satchel, so I got a room right next to me for Nancy.

“So, after Satchel got Lahoma bedded down that night, he wanted to say something to Nancy. So he got up and was knocking on the door of Nancy’s room. He was knocking and saying, ‘Nancy, Nancy, Nancy.’ Now, Lahoma woke up and came to her door. And I heard Lahoma, so I rushed out of the door and said, ‘Here I am, Satchel.’ And he said, ‘Oh, Nancy, there you are. I’ve been looking for you.’ So ever since then I’ve been Nancy.”

His favorite Negro Leagues characters

“Double-Duty Radcliffe was one. Double-Duty was a catcher and a pitcher. He could really catch. Great arm and a pretty good hitter.

“Double-Duty would catch the first game of a doubleheader and pitch the second game. He could hit a home run in that first game and shut you out in the second game. He had a good fastball, but I think he cheated a little, too, because I think he might have spit on the ball a little or cut it. But he would get you out.”

The best players

“I’ve seen some of the greatest ballplayers who ever played the game. I start off with Josh Gibson, Johnny Bench, Lou Gehrig, Newt Allen, Willie Wells, Mike Schmidt, Turkey Stearnes, Oscar Charleston, Babe Ruth, Martin Dihigo, Satchel Paige, Sandy Koufax.

“They say Ty Cobb was a mean man, and he was a little meaner than what they said. But he could play.

“The best player I ever saw in my life was Oscar Charleston, a center fielder for the Indianapolis ABCs. The old-timers said the closest thing to Oscar Charleston was Willie Mays. Everything Willie could do, Oscar could do it a little better. He could go get that ball; he could throw it; he could hit; he could run; he could steal every base.”

The athletes

“Bo Jackson, Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson were some of the best athletes I’ve ever seen in my life. I first saw Ruth, I was a boy in Florida. Ruth hit the ball, I’m over the fence to catch the ball, but instead of catching the ball, I ran up the tree and wanted to see who hit it. It was Babe Ruth.

“When Babe Ruth hit the ball, it had a distinct sound. I had never heard that sound before, and the next time I heard it, I’m in Washington in the clubhouse and I raced out, it was Josh hitting the ball. The next time I heard it was right here in Kansas City. I was coming out of the Stadium Club, and I heard it again. Who was hitting that ball? Bo Jackson.”

“Right on time”

“People ask me, ‘Buck, don’t you think you were born too soon because you didn’t get to play in the major leagues?’ And I tell them, ‘No.’ How could I have been born too soon when I played against Babe Ruth, I saw Lou Gehrig play, I saw Ty Cobb play, I played against Josh Gibson, I played with Satchel Paige, I played with and against Cool Papa Bell? If I had been born earlier, I wouldn’t have experienced all these things.

“And I tell you what: I met my wife playing baseball in Memphis, Tennessee. I was a Kansas City Monarch, one of the greatest teams in the country. … Hey, I was right on time.”

| Compiled by Randy Covitz, The Star