If you like sports, or just good writing, and you haven’t read any of Joe Posnanski’s column, for shame. I read his book, The Soul of Baseball, about his year spent with Buck O’Neil touring America, and found it a very affecting portrait of a man who knew what was right and was willing to wait for it.
Joe has a column in SI today which is about Buck, and Obama, and not about Prop 8. But I can’t help but take some of it in that light. If you can’t read the whole thing, here is what I think is the most relevant excerpt.
Buck O’Neil became the first black coach in Major League Baseball — that was in Chicago, for the Cubs, in 1962. He was, in too many ways, a token hire; he was as qualified as anyone to be a big league manager, much less a coach, but realistically they brought him in mostly to serve as a bridge to Lou Brock and Ernie Banks and Billy Williams and the other African-American players. The Cubs never let O’Neil on the field, not even to coach first or third base. “I would have liked to do that, even if it was for only one game,” Buck said. “But it just wasn’t time yet.”
He said that with no bitterness — Buck just seemed to have no bitterness in him. He believed in the passing of time and in the slow but steady rhythms of change. He had seen so much of it in his life.
Again and again, I saw him light up with joy as he saw what America had become. “Yeah, we have a way to go,” he would say to those people who sounded discouraged. “We’ll get there, man. I wish you could see what I’ve seen.”
He could not get enough. He spoke in classrooms and chatted with people at ballgames and went up to complete strangers in restaurants and at airports, and he believed in this America. It isn’t perfect, of course, nothing close to perfect, and there’s always a lot to do. Buck said that plenty. But, more, much more, he said: “Look how far we’ve come. Look how much we’ve grown. Look how much closer we are.”