KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Missouri Senate Bill 1139 went effective on August 28, officially changing the name of the Broadway Bridge to the John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil Memorial Bridge.
On Thursday, Oct. 6, on the 10th anniversary of O'Neil's death, Kansas City held a dedication ceremony at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and recognized the name-change and honored the beloved and respected baseball legend.
There are few names more synonymous with Kansas City than his. The effort to honor John “Buck” O’Neil was introduced in the Missouri State Senate by Missouri State Senators Jason Holsman (Dem.) and Ryan Silvey (Rep) along with Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick.
Buck O'Neil wasn't born in the metro, but it's said that O'Neil grew up along with Kansas City.
“Buck had that shining light about him, and it glowed,” Kendrick told FOX 4 News.
O’Neil was a first baseman and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs from 1938 to 1955. He was a scout for the Chicago Cubs, where he signed Hall of Fame players Ernie Banks and Lou Brock. In 1962, O’Neil became the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball with the Cubs. He joined the Kansas City Royals as a scout in 1988.
O’Neil, however, was widely known as a man who helped renew interest in the Negro Leagues and helped establish the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in 1990. He served as board chairman until his death in 2006.
It's possible no one in the metro knew the Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient better than Kendrick.
“I think he'd be overwhelmed with it, like he was with so many things late in his life,” Kendrick told FOX 4. “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 a few months ago.