O'Neil was a fixture in the same seat behind home plate at Kauffman Stadium for years as a scout and as a fan. Now that seat will be reserved at every 2007 home game for a person who, on a large or small scale, emulates O'Neil's dedication to the community.
"I can't think of a better way to honor a guy of Buck's stature," said Royals Hall of Famer Frank White.
An eloquent, tireless ambassador for baseball, O'Neil died on Oct. 6 at age 94. He is remembered as a fine first baseman and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs, the first African-American coach in the Major Leagues and a leader in establishing the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
"It's going to be kind of different not seeing Buck in the stands," White said.
But the space at Row C, Seat 1 will not be empty. Royals are inviting nominations for persons to fill "Buck's seat." The nominations should include a description in 100 words or less of why the person should be honored along with relevant contact information.
Applications can be completed on www.Royals.com or by writing to Kansas City Royals, Attn: Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat Program, P.O. Box 419969, Kansas City, Mo. 64141.
"We will be reminded of how Buck touched so many people's lives," said Royals general manager Dayton Moore.
Royals vice president Toby Cook said the inspiration for the honor came from president Dan Glass who asked: "What are we going to do with Buck's seat?"
As the Royals considered ways to honor Buck, the idea widened to honor special persons in the community.
"It'll be someone who'd make Buck smile," Cook said. "Everybody made Buck smile."
The Royals will also pay tribute to O'Neil at the annual Salute to the Negro Leagues Day on Sunday, July 1, when they play the Chicago White Sox. The first 20,000 fans will receive a Monarchs cap with a "22 O'Neil" emblem stitched on the back.
The Royals Charities' $100,000 grant goes to a project close to O'Neil's heart. Plans are for an education center to be established in the Paseo YMCA building, the birthplace of the Negro Leagues in 1920.
This would be a center for educational programs, some using baseball as a teaching tool for mathematics and science. There would be interactive classrooms and "live" facilities that could be used by area students on field trips. A research center would be open to scholars and the general public.
The YMCA, at 18th and the Paseo in Kansas City, has been boarded up since the 1970s.
"The Glass family and the Royals want to do their part to fulfill Buck's dream and to recognize his lifetime of contributions to baseball and to young people throughout the country," said Betty Kaegel, director of Royals Charities.
Mark Bryant, chairman of the museum board, said the Royals' donation would open doors to other clubs.
"This contribution is so important because it evidences support from Major League Baseball," Bryant said. "This will be a catalyst to more support from other Major League organizations."
Don Motley of the NLBM noted that O'Neil was not elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame last year in a controversial vote. O'Neil, though, looked beyond that.
"He told me, 'Mr. Motley, when we build our research center, that will be my Hall of Fame,'" Motley said.