Happy In Bag

Monday, January 09, 2006

"Where Does Hate Get You?"

I despise Buck O'Neil's bladder.

"I could talk for ten more minutes," O'Neil said near the end of a twenty-minute address, "But I'm 94 years old and I've got to go to the bathroom."

John "Buck" O'Neil is my hero. And I would do almost anything to be in his presence, including suffering through a two-and-a-half hour interfaith worship service at Community Christian Church on Sunday afternoon. (I'd already had two hours of church that morning.)

Tailoring his remarks to the audience at the "2006 Greater Kansas City Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Celebration," O'Neil discussed love, faith, and his personal experiences with segregation. His biggest disappointment, he said, wasn't being barred from playing in Major League Baseball. After all, O'Neil asserts, "I played in the best league at the time." Instead, he still feels the pain of being excluded from the high school in his home town of Sarasota, Florida.

As much of the world already knows, O'Neil is a charismatic speaker exuding an unconditional lust for life. At least a dozen faith leaders addressed the congregation; a few are renowned public speakers. O'Neil's candid, folksy narrative made them look like dilettantes.

While O'Neil is incomparable, the service offered a few additional highlights. A choir spontaneously joined Uzziel Pecina's folkloric group Aztlan in a rousing version of La Bamba. The Christ Temple Youth Choir raised the roof with a fiery take on Lift Him Up. Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski offered a few choice words in his introduction to O'Neil.

I think O'Neil may have been fibbing about the bathroom. I later spotted him working the room with a distinct proclivity for the fairer sex.


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