But all O'Neil did was smile in the face of this injustice. In July, O'Neil took center stage at the induction ceremony and spoke on behalf of the 17 Negro Leaguers and the pre-Negro Leaguers who did go into the National Baseball Hall of Fame."I think the challenge he leaves for all of us," Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes said, "is the next time we begin to ring our hands and we begin to be unhappy about something, we need to ask ourselves: 'What would Buck do? How would he be thinking? What would he believe?' "He gave us the answer." The answer, people who spoke on Saturday said, was to reach out, grab hold of life and squeeze every ounce of joy out of it. He wanted people to live that life to its fullest -- without rancor, without anger and without disappointments wrapped tightly inside it. In his life, O'Neil could easily have viewed things from a different lens. He could have bemoaned the lost opportunities that segregation dealt him and other Negro League players in the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s, Morgan said. But Morgan said O'Neil told him not to feel sorry for Negro Leaguers, because they played the game with passion. They had a passion for life. They were a very "special group." "He said, 'The only reason we wanted to play in the [Major Leagues] was to prove to them that we were as good or better than they were,'" Morgan said. "'Other than that, don't feel sorry for us.'" Morgan said the message eased his mind. The message made Morgan feel good about his own career in baseball; it reminded him how fortunate his life was. O'Neil, who was buried in a private ceremony earlier in the day, made people seem fortunate no matter what their station in life was. "I've always likened him to being one of the great teachers in this country, even though that was not his trade," said Bob Kendrick, marketing director of the museum. "He taught us so much." The lessons continue even in his death.
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.