The memory of Kansas City’s most beloved personalities came under attack last night as the new Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center was vandalized, causing serious damage.
The building honors O’Neil, who started his baseball career in the 1930s when African Americans weren’t allowed to play in the major leagues. He started in the Negro Leagues, where he played first base and coached the Kansas City Monarchs, appeared in three All-Star Games, and won a World Series. In 1962 O’Neil, who died 12 years ago, became the first African American coach in major league baseball. As a scout and a coach in the major leagues, he helped players reach their full potential.
He was unofficially baseball’s ambassador, telling people about the Negro Leagues and helping to start the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. As an ambassador for baseball, Buck devoted his life to helping other players achieve greatness and promoting the game he loved.
The question is, why would his memory be defamed?
Police say around 11 a.m. Friday an alarm went off. They said someone broke into the historic, multi-purpose center and cut a water pipe on the second floor. It caused extensive flooding to the first floor and basement. See footage of the damage in the video above.
Police believe the vandal, or vandals, broke in through a back door at the center near 18th Street and the Paseo in Kansas City’s Jazz District.
Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, said the “temporary setback hurts, but will not stop our major renovation project.”
Kendrick said in 1920 the building was the birthplace of the Negro Leagues. Many famous faces and sports pioneers once stopped through the five-floor building, including baseball great Jackie Robinson and boxing champion Joe Louis.
Gates BBQ owner and founder Ollie Gates is spearheading the learning center’s renovation project.
“I am disappointed that they targeted our building, but we will keep going and keep making this a unique, community center,” Gates said.
Police are still investigating the vandalism. They plan to review possible video from nearby surveillance cameras.