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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Legacy winners given tour by O'Neil
Ryan, Jocketty, others enjoy Negro Leagues museum
By Dick Kaegel/MLB.com


Negro Leagues Baseball Museum director Buck O'Neil gave the Legacy winners a personal tour, complete with his colorful anecdotes. (Ed Zurga/AP)
KANSAS CITY -- Terry Ryan, general manager of the Twins, had been at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum many times. For Walt Jocketty, the Cardinals' general manager, it was the first visit.

Both were effusive in their praise for the institution which is continuing to grow in stature worldwide.

Ryan and Jocketty toured the museum Saturday before receiving the Rube Foster Award as executives of the year in their respective leagues at the fifth annual Legacy Awards ceremonies. They were joined by museum chairman Buck O'Neil.

"As a baseball person, this is about as good as it gets. The history and respect for what players went through," Ryan said.

"Obviously, I know Buck, I see Gene Baker's picture in here, I knew Bob Thurman. There are people in this museum that I was fortunate to work around and have the ability to tap into. So that makes it that much more special for me."

Jocketty brought his 14-year-old son Joey with him to the museum at 18th and Vine in Kansas City.

"It's astounding," Jocketty said. "It's a great thing that Buck has worked so hard to develop and preserve this."

The museum's Bob Kendrick, who conducted the tour, pointed out many artifacts and narrated the history of the Negro Leagues.

Pointing to a statue of catcher Josh Gibson, Kendrick noted: "They called Josh Gibson 'the black Babe Ruth,' but some people called Ruth 'the white Josh Gibson.' "

O'Neil, 93, provided some antecdotes about his days in the leagues.

"In 1938, I got $100 a month and $1 a day meal money," O'Neil said. "I got ham and eggs and coffee for 25 cents. Then I could get a Kansas City steak and fried potatoes for 35 cents. Then I could go to the Gem Theater for 10 cents. I'd still have 30 cents left to play with."

O'Neil recalled staying at Kansas City's Street Hotel where famous jazz musicians mingled with players.

"I could come down to breakfast in the Rose Room and somebody would say, 'Hey, Buck, come over here and have breakfast with me,'" he recalled. "It could have been Louis Armstrong, it could have been Sarah Vaughan, it could have been Duke Ellington."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.