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October 24, 2007

Jane Forbes Clark

Joe Morgan

Dale Petroskey

Allan H. "Bud" Selig


THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you again for your patience and thank you for your attention tonight for this special announcement for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. At this point I'd like to introduce the speakers this evening, Jake Forbes Clark, Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Joe Morgan; Vice-Chairman of the National Baseball Hall of Fame; Commissioner Bud Selig, Commissioner of Major League Baseball, and Dale Petroskey, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
I will now turn it over to Jane for remarks, and then we will follow with a question-and-answer session. Jane?
JANE FORBES CLARK: Thank you, and I join Brad in thanking all of you for being here tonight.
The last year and a half, the board of directors of the Hall of Fame has been looking at different ways of honoring Buck O'Neil's enormous impact on our game. A board-appointed committee consisting of Joe Morgan, Commissioner Selig, John McHale, former Commissioner Fay Vincent, Bob Costas and myself met several times in the last year, and took our recommendations to the full board meeting in July in Cooperstown.
Buck was among the greatest ambassadors that this game ever had. He was a giant of a man. His kindness, his wisdom, his generosity of spirit will live on forever with those that he touched and those who touched him.
So tonight I am so pleased to announce that the Hall of Fame board of directors has created the National Baseball Hall of Fame Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his lasting contributions to baseball. And Buck will be its first recipient.
We feel it is extremely appropriate to name our Lifetime Achievement Award after Buck, as it will go on to honor individuals of outstanding character, integrity, citizenship, whose efforts to enhance and to dignify baseball's legacy as it relates to American culture are extraordinary.
Also, we view receiving this honor as a very, very significant award, and therefore the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award will not be voted upon annually but will be presented at the discretion of the board of directors, no more frequently than every three years.
The award itself will be in the form of a permanent life-sized statue of Buck that will be placed in a prominent place in the museum in Cooperstown and dedicated during our upcoming 2008 Hall of Fame weekend, and the award will be presented at the induction ceremony that weekend, too.
We've commissioned nationally renowned sculptor William Behrends to do the piece. He has a very impressive resume. Many of you have seen his work. It includes the bronze statue of Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal at AT & T park in San Francisco, Tony Gwynn at Petco, and Jackie Robinson with PeeWee Reese in New York City. His work is magnificent, and we are looking forward to him capturing Buck's enormous character.
There will be two plaques with the statue, one educating our visitors with Buck's eight decades of contributions to baseball, and the other the recipients of the baseball Hall of Fame Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. I'm thrilled to make this announcement tonight. Buck was loved by everyone, and this award will provide the lasting legacy that he deserves.
I'd now like to ask Joe to say a few words about Buck and the award.
JOE MORGAN: First of all, I think it's a great, great honor. In some ways it's going to even be bigger than getting a plaque in the Hall of Fame because your name is going to come up more frequently as we present the award.
As we African Americans who have played owe a debt to Jackie Robinson for what he did, I think the Negro League players owe a debt to Buck O'Neil for keeping their legacy alive and keeping them in the public's eye and getting a lot of them voted into the Hall of Fame.
For some of you may not remember, but Ted Williams was the first person to speak with the Negro League players being inducted into the Hall of Fame. He brought that up in his speech. Buck O'Neil has kept that legacy alive, and we have gone overboard, so to speak, to make sure that we did pick up everybody that was deserving of that honor. So it's a pleasure for me to be a part of this, and I think it's a tremendous honor, not only for the Hall of Fame but to Buck O'Neil and his legacy. Commissioner Selig.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: Well, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate both Jane and Dale and the Hall of Fame for honoring the legacy of Buck with the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. I've been thinking about it coming out here today. When you think of Buck's accomplishments, he's one of the few people you can't talk about what he did on the field. His career is legendary. And I often refer to baseball as a social institution.
Here is a man long before it was fashionable to be this way who really led the way and did so much for all parties concerned, and his career is remarkable. To say he was a great ambassador is almost trite, but it's true in every way.
His impact on the game has been enormous, and he became because of his actions a legendary figure. So I agree with what Joe said; he's now in Cooperstown where he belongs. But I think in a unique way, which as Jane stated and Joe also affirmed, every three years or plus, whatever, we'll be able to talk about Buck O'Neil. It won't be just a plaque on a wall. It'll be somebody being honored because he was like the great Buck O'Neil. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: At this time we'll open it up for questions for our guests about today's announcement.

Q. This is for any of the three of you, Commissioner, Joe or Jane. Everybody I'm sure feels this is a great honor. Is there still mathematically a chance that Buck could also get a plaque and somehow the oversight from this last lengthy election can be fixed and he could be elected to the Hall as he should be?
DALE PETROSKEY: I'll take that. In 2003 we commissioned a study on the Negro Leagues. Major League Baseball, Bob and Bud were very generous in giving us $250,000 to do this study, and it was a five-year study, and a couple things came out of it. One was sort of the social history of the Negro Leagues which resulted in a book we did, National Geographic, which we're very proud of, and the other part of it was a statistical analysis. We knew about 20 percent of Negro League statistics before the study began. At the end we knew about 80 or 90 percent and feel very good about that. And that gave us the statistics upon which to have an election, a one-time-only election, in which every Negro Leaguer who deserved to be in Cooperstown wouldn't have to wait another day. And last year in 2006 we inducted 17 Negro Leaguers at one time, doubling the number of plaques for Negro Leaguers on the wall in Cooperstown. That was our opportunity to do something once and for all. We said that from the beginning, this was going to be a one-time election.
We're very proud, though, and Jane and Joe and Bud and Fay and Bob Costas on the committee felt very strongly, as did our board, that Buck needed to have a big presence at the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and we're very proud that this is the solution they came up with.

Q. I'm from Kansas City where Buck is from, and people are going to look at this as sort of righting a wrong. I'm curious if you guys see it that way. And the other thing is probably mostly for Joe, the committee I know put a lot of time into this. Can you tell me some of the other options that you guys were thinking of, other ways to do this?
JOE MORGAN: Well, I don't think this is necessarily trying to right a wrong. I think we're just trying to honor a person -- there are a lot of people who are not elected to the Hall of Fame that the public, myself included, think should be in the Hall of Fame, and therefore they're not. It doesn't mean that we should try to go out and fix something. I think Buck O'Neil, as Jane and Bud have said, is a unique person. He's a unique individual. Things he did for the game, things he did for the community, things he did for our country, I think he is a unique individual and that's why you see this.
Some of the other options, there were a lot of options. I mean, we just started with a blank board and we started throwing things up there. I think the one -- all of us had our own thoughts about it, including the Commissioner, had some things he wanted and didn't want, Jane the same way, myself included, Bob Costas, Fay Vincent, we all had things we thought would work, and as a committee we discussed them and this is what we came up with. I don't think it's righting a wrong, I think it's just doing something for an individual that was a great ambassador for the game and a great ambassador for Kansas City.

Q. This is for Dale. The Hall of Fame board has changed its rules periodically since the Hall of Fame was founded. Is this an ironclad decision that there will be no revisiting of Buck O'Neil's eligibility for the Hall of Fame itself?
DALE PETROSKEY: Well, again, we said from the beginning we were going to have a one-time election for the Negro Leaguers, and we feel very good about the process. We feel very good about how it was handled. But look, every election happens, and sometimes you're not happy with the election results, but you live by the election results because of the process that was put into place.
I think we are going to stand by our word that this was going to be a one time only election, and all -- we believe now that all the Negro Leaguers who are deserving of a plaque on the wall are in Cooperstown.
COMMISSIONER SELIG: I just want to add, because Jane and Dale put an enormous amount of time, and the committee members spent a fair amount of time, but I want to really ruminate on what Jane said in particular, and Joe. Yes, people -- you can say, well, it would have been perfect if, and maybe that's true and maybe not, but this is something that honors I think not only him but honors the people. That was the goal of this committee, to do the most meaningful thing that we could do. I really think that if we're interested, A, in honoring him, and B, perpetuating his legacy, that what they chose is really the thing that does that and does it in the most meaningful way.
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us for this special announcement. A press release detailing this announcement will be available in the press box shortly.

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