We must do this for Buck

There’s a reason Buck didn’t want us to cry for him. It would dishonor the way he lived his life. Buck, as we all know, never wallowed in pity or shirked responsibility.

No one can honestly feel sorry for Buck O’Neil. We would all take his 94 years. The tears we’ll shed in the aftermath of his death will symbolize our loss and our fear of living up to his standard.

What Would Buck Do, if he was us and dealing with the death of a man who taught everyone he came in contact with how to live, love and laugh?

Buck would get involved, fill the void and love a little harder.

So what are we going to do?

Bob Kendrick, marketing director for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Buck’s right-hand man, said Saturday afternoon that “Buck has prepared us well.”

Kendrick was talking about the people entrusted to keep the museum growing and relevant, the people who shared Buck’s passion for making sure Negro Leaguers received what was long overdue — respect.

But Kendrick was speaking to all of us, the people who benefited from Buck’s love, the people who took pride in the positive light Buck spread on our community.

Buck prepared us, too. What are we going to do? Will we let Buck’s dream fade? Will we support his passion now that he’s gone and won’t be around on 18th and Vine to greet us?

Buck was so much more than just baseball and funny stories about Satchel Paige. He was more than the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Buck’s passion was teaching us how to live, inspiring young people to strive for their goals. The museum wants to raise $15 million and build a school that will bear Buck’s name. The fundraising drive is called “Thanks A Million, Buck.”

We owe Buck thanks. And we owe it to ourselves to teach young people about Buck O’Neil, about achieving academically and personally despite difficult obstacles.

Buck O’Neil can’t be replaced by one man. The museum will never have an ambassador as charismatic and authentic as Buck. Most of the former Negro Leaguers are dead. No one can match Buck’s energy and love of small talk.

It’s going to take all of us to do Buck’s job. We’re going to have to promote the museum, support its functions, donate to “Thanks A Million, Buck” and tell the stories Buck once told.

Buck touched us all — housewives, factory workers, athletes, politicians, corporate executives, old, young and in-between. When I checked my voice mail Saturday morning, there were messages from people of every stripe wanting to talk about Buck’s life and their memories of Buck.

Good. Let’s talk, and then let’s take action. Let’s get involved. Let’s do what Buck would do.

He was gracious with strangers, quick to forgive an injustice and generous with his money and time. Buck represented the best of Kansas City, the best of America.

He set a standard we should all strive to achieve.

When you think of Buck, don’t think of his exclusion from the Hall of Fame. You’ll miss the point. Exclusion from the Hall and from the major leagues never diminished Buck. The Hall and baseball were diminished by Buck’s exclusion.

If we don’t embrace Buck’s dream and support his living legacy — the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum — we will be diminished.

To reach Jason Whitlock, call (816) 234-4869 or send e-mail to