By DJ Harding –
In honor of black history month The WooSox Foundation, Worcester Public Library, and United Way of Central Massachusetts have collaborated to bring Worcester its first-ever Negro Leagues Baseball Museum exhibit. The Ribbon Cutting takes place Wednesday, February 1, at 4 p.m., and features Worcester Mayor Joe Petty, City Manager Eric Batista, City Councilors Candy Mero-Carlson, Khrystian King, and Sean Rose, as well as officials from the WooSox Foundation, the United Way, and the Worcester Public Library.
This exhibit will run through opening day weekend for the Worcester Red Sox which is March 31st through April 2nd. This is on loan from the Negro League Baseball Museum which highlights Buck O’Neil who was inducted into Cooperstown this past July alongside David Ortiz. The Hall of Famer, who became legendary to modern audiences after his popular role in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary, collaborated with WooSox Principal Owner and Chairman Larry Lucchino and WooSox President Dr. Charles A. Steinberg in their days with the San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox. They launched the Red Sox’ annual “Celebration of Life of Jackie Robinson” 20 years ago, in 2003. O’Neil was one of the first participants.
Buck O’Neil formally known as John Jordan O’Neil, Jr. was born November 13, 1911, in Carrabelle, FL. He was introduced to baseball at an early age by his father and 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. His time with the Monarchs surrounded his military service in the United States Navy in the mid-1940s. 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 the 1930s and ’40s to play exhibition games. Following his career with the Monarchs, O’Neil moved on to Major League Baseball as a scout with the Chicago Cubs. He was named MLB’s first Black coach by the Cubs in 1962 and signed Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Lou Brock to their first professional contracts. He began work as a Kansas City Royals scout in 1988 and was named “Midwest Scout of the Year” in 1998. Buck was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2022 as an executive.
To Celebrate Jackie Robinson On January 31st Worcester Public School kids will get a sneak preview to celebrate Robinson’s birthday with the presentation being conducted via zoom in the Worcester Public Library into fourth, fifth, and sixth grade classrooms around the city. The Preview will have 2 special guests being Mo Vaughn and Oil Can Boyd, who both were Red Sox Starts and owe their Careers to Jackie Robinson for breaking the color barrier in 1947.
“For 20 years, this event has been a passion of ours,” said WooSox President Dr. Charles Steinberg. “Thousands of students have learned who Jackie Robinson was, and why his painful, pioneering efforts have led to the freedom these students today enjoy pursuing any career, any endeavor, and any dream.”