But, the timing DID make you wonder what the Hall of Fame could do. On the day of his funeral, the Hall released a statement saying they would find a way to honor Buck. Those of us who were close to Buck — and I’m talking about hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions — hoped they would do the right thing. It would not have been right to just induct him into the Hall, I don’t think. For one thing, it would have smacked of being some sort of celestial makeup call, which is the last thing in the world anyone wanted. Buck never wanted to be a token, and he never wanted anyone to feel sorry for him. Also, it would not have meant anything — the whole reason so many of us wanted Buck O’Neil to go into the Hall of Fame was so that Buck himself could know that feeling and hear the cheers. With him gone, a Buck O’Neil induction ceremony would have been like a wake.
The Hall of Fame folks, to their credit, realized this. It took a year, but they came up with a beautiful compromise. They will put up a statue in his honor. And it doesn’t matter if its not in the official “Hall.” In fact, it’s better that it’s not. Buck was set apart. People will see it, kids will see it, and his name will live on. That’s the point.
Then they will have this Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award to give to those people who have dedicated their lives to the game and deserve to be remembered and honored. I have, in my mind, a long list of scouts and coaches and writers and baseball lifers who deserve that honor. I’ll write about them sometime. For now, it’s worth just saying that — once again — something good will happen for people because of the good name of Buck O’Neil. That, to me, is the best way to honor the man.