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The story of the Negro Leagues is one of sheer determination and devotion. Strong-willed, dedicated athletes, who simply refused to accept the notion that they were unfit to share in the joys of our national pastime. We were baseball players, first and foremost; who forged a glorious history in an inglorious era of American segregation. Our talent, passion and perseverance would not only change the game of Major League Baseball but would change America. It is all chronicled at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM).

When the Negro National League was formed in Kansas City in 1920, it did not begin as a social statement. It began because talented athletes, who loved the game, required and deserved a forum for expression. The NLBM began with that same kind of resolve and devotion. It began with a passion for the game, a passion for America's history deeply influenced by the Negro Leagues, and a passion for the future-where youth will always need to be reminded of yesterday in order to appreciate today and encouraged to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

From our humble beginnings, we have grown to become one of the most important cultural facilities in the world. And while we are proud of our accomplishments, we understand that there are even greater challenges ahead.

It warms my soul to have lived long enough to witness the remarkable growth process of this museum, watching it transform from a dream into a world-class attraction. And now, it begins that ever-important shift to become the primary source of Negro Leagues history and an extension of the classroom, so that every child in this country has access to this incredible story of triumph over adversity.

But remember, the NLBM does more that educate; it inspires. It does more than explain; it imparts the human struggle, the victories and setbacks of overcoming social adversity, as seen through the eyes of those who lived it. The museum is a wonderful place to learn about history, heroes, and home runs, but more importantly, it is a place to learn about humanity.

John "Buck" O'Neil

John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil

The charismatic Buck O'Neil is truly an American hero. His eloquence, grace and genuine love for people have captured the hearts and imaginations of kindred spirits world wide. His illustrious baseball career spans seven (7) decades and has helped make him a foremost authority and the game's greatest ambassador.

O'Neil was born November 13, 1911 in Carrabelle, Florida. His father, who played for local teams, introduced him to baseball at an early age. He was nicknamed "Buck" after the co-owner of the Miami Giants, Buck O'Neal. A segregated America denied O'Neil the chance to play Major League baseball so he showcased his skills with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. He joined the Monarchs in 1938, was named player/manager for the club in 1948 and continued his association with the team through the end of the 1955 season.

O'Neil had a career batting average of .288 including four .300-plus seasons at the plate. In 1946 the talented first baseman led the league in hitting with a 353 average and followed that in 1947 with a career best .358 mark. He posted averages of .345 and .330 in 1940 and '49 respectively.

He played in three Negro American League All-Star games and in two Negro American League World Series. In addition to his career with the Monarchs, O'Neil teamed with the legendary Satchel Paige during the height of Negro League barnstorming in 1930's and 40's to play countless exhibition games.

Following his Monarch career, O'Neil moved on to Major League Baseball as a scout with the Chicago Cubs. He was named the Major's first black coach by the Cubs in 1962 and is credited with signing Hall of Fame baseball players Ernie Banks and Lou Brock to their first pro contracts. He has worked as a Kansas City Royals scout since 1988 and was named "Midwest Scout of the Year" in 1998.

O'Neil rose to national prominence with his compelling narration of the Negro Leagues as part of Ken Burns' PBS baseball documentary. Since then, he has been the source of countless national interviews including appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman," and "Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder."

Today, O'Neil serves as Board Chairman of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) in Kansas City, Missouri. He was a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee (Cooperstown, New York) until 2001 and continues to lead the charge for deserving Negro Leaguers to be inducted. Through his tireless crusade, America is awakening to the incredible story of the Negro Leagues and the NLBM as the world's only museum dedicated to preserving Negro Leagues history.