Meeting Buck O'Neil wasn't something you would ever forget.
I met Buck twice. The first time was roughly 15 years ago, at a party for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum that was, at that time, still a good idea more than anything else. There were a lot of people there and all of them wanted to meet Buck, so I asked him to sign my Monarchs cap and went on my way. I met him again in 2003, during a visit to Kansas City. I was researching a story (a story I'm still researching), and hoped Buck might have some memories to share. I wanted him to remember events of nearly 60 years earlier, and the truth is that his memory wasn't so hot. Nevertheless, Buck did give me some things I could use, and of course it was a thrill just to sit down and speak with him. Every so often I'll listen to Buck's voice on the tape, just to remind myself that someone who was there, all those years ago, is still here.
Except now he's not. Buck O'Neil left us yesterday, just a few weeks short of his 95th birthday. And of course he'll be terribly missed. Even if you never met him, if you know anything about him you can't help but miss him. Last winter there was a mid-sized hullabaloo when 17 members of "black baseball" were elected to the Hall of Fame while Buck O'Neil -- perhaps more famous than all 17 put together -- narrowly missed. Today I don't care to rehash that controversy. Today I prefer to remember what Buck said afterward.