KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Had he not passed away seven years ago, this November would have been Baseball Legend, Buck O’Neil’s 102nd birthday. Saturday, dozens came out to the 18th and Vine Kansas City Jazz district to run and walk in his honor. The Buck O’Neil Run and Walk benefited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Runners of all ages came out to travel the unusual 2.2 mile distance, which is in tribute to the man that wore KC Monarch's jersey number 22. Kansas City’s oldest competitive runner, Ed Burnham, who is 94 years old, started running as a hobby a little later in life than most.
"I started running when I was 60, good exercise, and started running marathons when I was 70," said Burnham.
Burnham, who finished Saturday's race, grew up watching O’Neil play.
"He was a very likeable person. Put up a good image for blacks in baseball," Burnham said.
Bob Kendrick with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum said Burnham saw firsthand how baseball has helped shape history.
"He is a part of that era; you know he was a part of that time. He's seen the progress made in this country and for those who have had a hand in effectively altering change in our country,” said Kendrick.
Saturday's run kick started three days of events that benefit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which was championed by O'Neil until his death.
"He used his birthday to help raise money and awareness for his museum. When he passed away in 2006 we thought it would be very fitting to continue that tradition of celebrating his life," Kendrick said.
The museum has a goal of raising 102 thousand dollars in honor of O'Neil’s 102nd birthday. All money raised this month will go toward keeping O’Neil’s dream alive.
Buck O'Neil’s 102nd birthday celebration continues on both Sunday and Wednesday.
Buck O’Neil’s 102nd Birthday Celebration
Schedule of Events
Saturday, Nov. 9:
9 a.m.: Buck O’Neil 2.2 Mile Run/Walk (Register at http://www.nlbm.com)
11 a.m.: George Altman and Willie Wilson discussion and book signing (NLBM)
8 p.m.: Buck’s Bash: The Power of Love featuring Howard Hewett (Gem Theater)
Sunday, Nov. 10:
3:30 p.m.: 3rd Annual Gospel Salute to Buck (Gem Theater)
Wednesday, Nov. 13:
7:30 p.m.: Buck O’Neil Legacy Award presentation (Gem Theater)
8 p.m.: Baseball Music: The Sweetest Sound
For tickets or more information, call the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum at (816) 221-1920 or visit their website at www.nlbm.com