Sarasota Was Home to Baseball Legend Buck O'Neil (1911-2006)
In honor of Black History Month and the upcoming spring training season, we're remembering John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil Jr., one of the most beloved players in baseball and a trailblazer in racial equality. If you’ve not seen the mural of O’Neil in the Rosemary District, head over to and take a look at the vibrant piece, which reminds us that Black history is Sarasota history.
O'Neil's family moved to Newtown around 1920, when he was just shy of 10. His mother took a job working as a cook for Ida Ringling North, John Ringling's sister, and his father ran a pool hall in Newtown. When he was old enough, O'Neil worked in the Celery Fields. It's said that while most workers carried two crates of celery and vegetables each, O'Neil was able to carry four.
O'Neil attended Emma E. Booker Elementary, where Booker herself was his teacher. When he was ready for high school, he cried after learning that Sarasota High School wouldn't admit him due to the color of his skin. In fact, there were no high schools in Sarasota at the time that welcomed Black students, but Booker got him into Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, where he completed high school and two years of college.
O'Neil was a star player for the Kansas City Monarchs, the first Black coach in Major League Baseball, and played a major role in establishing the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. When asked by Bob Kendrick, the current president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, what motivated him want to build a Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, O'Neil replied, "So that we would be remembered."