Buck O’Neil, Jim Kaat among others (finally) inducted into Cooperstown

For six legendary ballplayers, the long wait is finally over.

As per the results of this weekend’s special selection committee meetings, Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, and Buck O’Neil have all been elected to Cooperstown, and will be officially inducted on July 24 along with any players voted in by the regular writers’ ballot.

Kaat and Oliva, both 83, are the only living players of the six inducted.

The Early Baseball (covering candidates from 1871-1949) committee meets once per decade, the Golden Days (1950-1969) committee once every five years, and the Modern Baseball (1970-1987) and Today’s Game (1988-present) committees meet twice each during every five-year period. Much attention has been given to these committees over the years as more players’ cases become brought to light.

Minoso received 14 votes, while Hodges, Kaat, and Oliva all received 12 votes apiece. Others, such as DIck Allen, Ken Boyer and Roger Maris, received three or fewer votes.

O’Neil, one of baseball’s greatest ambassadors, has become one of the most beloved figures in baseball history, and when 17 former Negro-League players were inducted in 2006, O’Neil assured fans that he did not mind missing out:

“God’s been good to me. They didn’t think Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. That’s the way they thought about it and that’s the way it is, so we’re going to live with that. Now, if I’m a Hall of Famer for you, that’s all right with me. Just keep loving old Buck. Don’t weep for Buck. No, man, be happy, be thankful.”

O’Neil, who passed away at the age of 94 in 2006, garnered votes on 13 of the 16 of the ballots cast by the Hall of Fame’s Early Baseball Era Committee (pre 1950). The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City hosted a watch party as the place O’Neil built to keep the stories of the Negro Leagues alive.

And, all these years later, the stories are alive and well.

The 16 members of the Early Baseball panel were Bert Blyleven, Ferguson Jenkins, Ozzie Smith, Joe Torre, John Schuerholz, Bill DeWitt, Ken Kendrick, Tony Reagins, Gary Ashwill, Adrian Burgos Jr., Leslie Heaphy, Jim Henneman, Justice Hill, Steve Hirdt, Rick Hummel and John Thorn.

The 16 members of the Golden Days panel were Jenkins, Smith, Torre, Schuerholz, DeWitt, Kendrick, Reagins, Burgos, Hirdt, Rod Carew, Mike Schmidt, Bud Selig, Al Avila, Kim Ng, Jaime Jarrin and Jack O’Connell.

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