My Greatest Day in Baseball
Buck ONeil Legacy Seat Program
The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck ONeils America review
Great days in baseball. We all have at least one and in honor of the late John "Buck" O'Neil, we are being asked to reach into the memory banks, pull out that great day and tell it to anyone and everyone who will listen.
Mike Sweeney, a 12-year-old Little League standout, turning to his dad for support in the summer of 1985 as his attempts at pitching for his team often looked more like dodge ball for his opponents, but led him to a championship victory.
For a good two hours on a recent Saturday in May, Kansas City Star
sports columnist Joe Posnanski got eight prominent Kansas City sports figures and notables to share their baseball memories as part of an ongoing event called "My Greatest Day in Baseball." The event, which was the first of its kind and held at the Gem Theater in Kansas City, Mo., was presented by the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and was created based on one of O'Neil's favorite pastimes: remembering the good times in baseball.
Ryan Lefebvre, a coach's son staking out his claim in the dugout, flipping baseball history in the making into a moment with his own father when Ken Griffey, Sr., and his son, Ken Griffey, Jr., hit back-to-back singles to become the first father and son to bat in the same lineup.
O'Neil, who served as board chairman of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum before passing away this past October, often gently interrogated those he encountered by inquiring about their greatest days in baseball. He then often followed up with the story of his own greatest day in baseball, which many Kansas Citians and beyond know by heart. It was the day in 1943 when he hit for the cycle on the field and met his future bride, Ora, for the first time.
Al Fitzmorris, years removed from his playing days, listening intently as his 14-year-old daughter proclaims her softball team will win nine straight, and then, that next day, watching in awe as the proclamation rang true and a championship trophy was placed in her hands.
Open to the public with a paid admission to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the event drew in more than 100 baseball fans on May 26 to listen as Posnanski invited the guest speakers two-by-two up to the stage. Posnanski, who recently wrote "The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America," opened the discussion by describing his own greatest days in baseball before stepping into what he labeled the "Johnny Carson" role. His first guest, Royals five-time All-Star and team captain Mike Sweeney, had no problems getting the ball rolling for the panel, jumping straight into an emotional story of fathers and sons in baseball.
Diego Segui, on the verge of making a name for himself, describing the butterflies he had tossing four innings of relief for Satchel Paige on Sept. 25, 1965, Paige's last big-league pitching appearance.
In addition to Sweeney, the Royals had a strong presence at the event as Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre, former Royals pitcher Al Fitzmorris, Royals Hall of Fame second baseman and eight-time Gold Glove winner Frank White and Royals General Manager Dayton Moore each took turns sharing their greatest memories. Like Sweeney's, most of the memories surrounded a special bond between fathers and sons on the baseball field.
Sam Lacey, stepping outside court that made him a legend, sitting in awe of some men he considered legends: former Dodger greats that were perched at his table, signing autographs and, in return, sitting in awe of him.
Outside the Royals, other panelists participating in the discussion included NBA basketball great Sam Lacey, who spent 10 years playing for the Kansas City Kings, former Kansas City A's reliever Diego Segui and Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Eddie Kennison, who had two greatest days in baseball which each involved O'Neil.
Eddie Kennison, off the football field, standing alongside his 8-year-old son in disbelief that the Buck O'Neil, who had just given him a private tour of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum -- the last private tour Buck would ever give -- now wanted his autograph to sit in a case full of autographed baseballs within the famed museum's walls.
According to Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Director of Marketing Bob Kendrick, the "My Greatest Day in Baseball" event held on May 26 was the first of many for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which will be touring the country this summer with its "Roadway, the Times of Greatness" mobile museum. Kendrick says the museum is hoping to attract several nationally known sports figures to participate in similar discussion panels.
In addition, Kendrick said that the "Thanks a Million Buck" campaign, which raises money for the John "Buck" O'Neil Research and Education Center, will also turn its focus to reliving baseball fans' greatest day in baseball memories, just as O'Neil would have wanted it.
Dayton Moore, before jumping into the General Manager's chair, getting the call to step up to the plate and oversee the Atlanta Braves International Scouting department, an opportunity that would put him in an environment where he grew to appreciate the innocence of baseball.
When it's all said and done, the only thing left to ask is: what was your greatest day in baseball?
The Royals invite fans to share their greatest days in baseball by posting them to the Royals "Around the Horn" blog, royals.mlblogs.com.
Frank White, a young Kansas City boy playing at Parade Park, getting pulled off his winning little league team by his father because the challenge of winning was not present. Then, years later, after overcoming so many challenges, watching his father share in the unveiling of the Frank White statue outside Kauffman Stadium.