Buck O'Neil, a champion of Black ballplayers during a monumental, eight-decade career on and off the field, joined Gil Hodges, Minnie Miņoso and three others in being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Former Minnesota Twins teammates Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat also were chosen along with Bud Fowler by a pair of veterans committees.
Oliva and Kaat, both 83 years old, are the only living new members. Longtime slugger Dick Allen, who died last December, fell one vote shy of election.
The six newcomers will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24, along with any new members elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
This was the first time O'Neil, Miņoso and Fowler had a chance to make the Hall under new rules honoring Negro League contributions. Last December, the statistics of some 3,400 players were added to Major League Baseball's record books when MLB said it was “correcting a longtime oversight in the game's history” and reclassifying the Negro Leagues as a major league.
“Jubilation,” said Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, that O'Neil helped create, after the voting results were announced.
O'Neil was a two-time All-Star first baseman in the Negro Leagues and the first Black coach in the National or American leagues. He became a remarkable ambassador for the sport until his death in 2006 at 94 and already is honored with a life-sized statue inside the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Miņoso was a two-time All-Star in the Negro Leagues before becoming the first Black player for the Chicago White Sox in 1951. Born in Havana, “The Cuban Comet” was seven-time All-Star while with the White Sox and Indians.
Fowler, born in 1858, is often regarded as the first Black professional baseball player.
O'Neil and Fowler were selected by the Early Days committee. Hodges, Miņoso, Oliva and Kaat were chosen the by the Golden Days committees. The 16-member panels met separately in Orlando, Florida.
It took 12 votes (75%) for selection: Miņoso drew 14, O'Neil got 13 and Hodges, Oliva, Kaat and Fowler each had 12. Allen had 11.