For Pete's Sake

Buck O’Neil’s life lessons from 1999 still apply today

Buck O’Neil
Buck O’Neil

On Thursday, the Broadway Bridge was officially renamed the John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil Memorial Bridge, and the date of the ceremony was not chosen at random.

It was 10 years ago that O’Neil died, but his legacy remains. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum exists in large part because of O’Neil, the Royals honor him at every home game with Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat, and his exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame still upsets people.

And, of course, O’Neil’s interviews on Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary will always be with us.

But let’s take a minute to remember O’Neil’s amazing outlook on life. He was one of the most positive people to walk the earth. Google Buck O’Neil quotes, and you can kiss the next hour of your life goodbye.

I was hoping to compile some of those quotes here, but then I stumbled upon a column that Joe Posnanski wrote for The Star in 1999. If you remember that year, then you’ll recall the Y2K fears that proved to be unfounded.

Posnanski, who is now with NBC Sports, asked O’Neil for tips for the millennium, and most are applicable today.

O’Neil said not worry about the new millennium, and then offered these 16 pieces of advice for life:

▪ Hug everybody you can, especially the pretty women.

▪ Drain the bitterness out of your heart. My daddy was a good man. He paid his taxes. He lived a good life. But he couldn’t vote. He was not bitter, though. …

▪ Sing a little every day.

▪ Do yourself a favor: Go down to 18th and Vine just to see a bit of Kansas City history. It was exciting. Yeah. There were musicians and baseball players and beautiful women and men dressed up like you wouldn’t believe. Every restaurant, hotel and bar had a band playing sweet music. Yeah. People ask me what it was like, I tell them this: A man would come to Kansas City and say “I have a cousin here, but I don’t know where he is.” I would say “Well, you just stand right here on the corner of 18th and Vine, and before this day is over, he will show up.” Yeah. That was 18th and Vine.

▪ Don’t smoke any of those leaves or put anything up your nose.

▪ Tell people you love them.

▪ Listen to old people tell stories. They might teach you something.

▪ Do a little showboating every now and again in your life. Remember, it was the so-so ballplayers that came up with the word “Showboating.” They were jealous. If you have something to show, go ahead and showboat a little bit.

▪ Don’t be jealous of any other city. Kansas City is the greatest city on earth.

▪ Be there for old friends.

▪ Always be on time. There’s no use in being late.

▪ Don’t let anger boil up inside you. There’s too much anger out there already. Yeah. Too much anger.

▪ Root for the Royals. They’re a good young team. They make you feel alive because they play so hard. That’s what baseball is all about.

▪ Hold hands with the person next to you. That way they can’t get away. And neither can you.

▪ Learn your history. It’s a wonderful history. So many wonderful things have happened in the last 100 years. We have come so far. We still have a ways to go, but that’s your job, you and your children and their children. We will get there. I know it.

▪ Live a long life. Yeah. You get to see a whole lot that way. A whole lot.

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff

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