Negro League trailblazers elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

·4 min read

Pro baseball pioneers Buck O’Neil, Bud Fowler, and Minnie Miñoso are set to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July

Two Negro League standouts and one pre-Negro League player were chosen on Sunday to join the upcoming class of National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees.

Black baseball pioneers JohnBuck” O’Neil, Bud Fowler, and Minnie Miñoso will join MLB greats Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, and Tony Oliva in the 2022 Hall of Fame Class induction ceremony scheduled to take place next July 24.

Fowler, O’Neil, and Miñoso were three of seven Negro League and pre-Negro League players reviewed for the Hall of Fame on Sunday, according to CNN.

In 2020, Major League Baseball determined that Negro League players would be recognized going forward as major leaguers and their stats would be adjusted accordingly.

O’Neil became the first Black coach in Major League Baseball history in 1962, when he joined the coaching staff of the Chicago Cubs, according to MLB.

Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
John ‘Buck’ O’Neil speaks at the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 30, 2006 in Cooperstown, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

His playing career began with the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League in 1937, according to the Hall of Fame. A year later, he was playing first-base for the Kansas City Monarchs, who went on to win four consecutive Negro American League pennants with O’Neil on the roster.

O’Neil’s coaching career began as a player-manager for the Monarchs from 1948 to 1955. The Cubs subsequently hired him as a scout before promoting him to the coaching staff. He died in 2006.

“Buck touched every facet of baseball, and his impact was among the greatest the game has ever known,” National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum chairperson Jane Forbes Clark said in a written statement. “His contributions to the game go well beyond the playing field.”

John W. Jackson reportedly changed his name to “Bud” Fowler after he started chasing his dream of playing pro baseball, according to multiple sources. Fowler was born in 1858 and died in 1913, seven years before the first viable Negro League was established, according to Brittanica. But he is believed to be the first Black man to play pro baseball with white players.

Jackie Robinson receives due credit for breaking the color barrier in the Major Leagues in 1947, but Fowler began making his mark in the minor leagues 75 years before that in 1872, according to MLB. He was regarded as a journeyman athlete who played for several teams over the course of his career, which took place before most modern stats were recorded.

Fowler’s father was an escaped Southern slave who fled north and ultimately settled in Cooperstown, New York. Historian Thom Loverro, author of “The Encyclopedia of Negro League Baseball,” said Fowler was a free thinker who annoyed his white teammates because he never viewed himself as inferior to them.

“To play white baseball at the time that he did — in so many different places in his career — what was impressive was his courage and independence,” Loverro told MLB.com.

Miñoso made his pro baseball mark with the Chicago White Sox after becoming the first Afro-Latino to play in the Major Leagues in 1948 when he was signed to the Cleveland Indians. But the player nicknamed “The Cuban Comet” and “Mr. White Sox” began his pro career in the Negro Leagues, playing third base for the New York Cubans.

Buck O’Neil, Minnie Miñoso, and Bud Powell will join their Negro League peers in baseball’s Hall of Fame. (Public Domain)
Buck O’Neil, Minnie Miñoso, and Bud Powell will join their Negro League peers in baseball’s Hall of Fame. (Public Domain)

The nine-time all-star and three-time Golden Glove Award-winning left-fielder led the American League in both triples and stolen bases three times during his career, according to MLB. He also recorded 2,110 hits and a .299 batting average during his playing days. Miñoso died in 2015.

“He exemplifies everything a Hall of Famer is supposed to be both on and off the field,” Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick said of Miñoso during a recent MLB.com interview.

“He fought through all the obstacles put in front of him,” added former White Sox pitcher and fellow Afro-Cuban Jose Contreras. “I cannot imagine doing all the things that he did at that time. And to me, he was a hero, and he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.”

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