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Broadway Bridge may soon bear Buck O’Neil’s name

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There are few names more synonymous with Kansas City than his. An effort underway to honor John “Buck” O’Neil was introduced in the Missouri State Senate on Tuesday morning, as two legislators unveiled a bill proposing a Kansas City landmark to be renamed to honor the baseball legend.

He wasn't born in the metro, but it's said that O'Neil grew up along with Kansas City. Missouri State Senators Jason Holsman (Dem.) and Ryan Silvey (Rep) along with Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick, are pushing to see the downtown Broadway Bridge renamed to honor O'Neil.

“Buck had that shining light about him, and it glowed,” Kendrick told FOX 4 News.

Kendrick has been the museum's president for the past five years, and it's possible no one in the metro knew the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient better.

“I think he'd be overwhelmed with it, like he was with so many things late in his life,” Kendrick said. “Buck was 82 years old when the Ken Burns documentary came out, and it made him an overnight sensation. “

Thousands of people travel the Broadway Bridge every day, driving a span that connects the Northland to the downtown area of Kansas City.

“Who connected us better than Buck O'Neil?” Kendrick asked rhetorically.

Kendrick says it's that unifying quality that makes the Kansas City Monarchs legend worthy of such an honor.

“So many people cross that bridge on a daily basis. They'll all be reminded of what Buck represented in our community. The impact he had and is still having even though he's been gone almost 10 years,” Kendrick said.

“There are still people who come to me today who say, 'I had a chance encounter with Buck O'Neil and it changed my life,” Kendrick shared.

There may also be new funding to assist with projects like this one. On Tuesday in Jefferson City, members of the Missouri legislature earmarked new money to help repair Kansas City area bridges, including the one that could bear Buck's name.

Missouri SB 1139, the senate bill regarding the "Buck Bridge" concept was also introduced on Tuesday. A member of State Senator Holsman's office said the soonest it could pass the senate would be the end of this month -- but that would be best case.