Buck's Best Day

From “The Soul of Baseball”

Buck would have turned 105 on Sunday. For his friend and mine, Bob Kendrick, I pulled out the story about Buck O’Neil’s best day.

* * *

“What was your best day?” I asked him. I’d heard him tell it a hundred times. I wanted to know if he was awake.

“Easter Sunday, 1943, Memphis, Tennessee,” he said immediately. He opened his eyes. “I was first baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs then. We were playing the Memphis Red Sox. First time up, I hit a double. Next time I hit a single. Third time up, I hit the ball over the left field fence for a home run. Fourth time up, I hit a long fly ball to right field. As I ran to first I yelled, “Hit the fence! Hit the fence!” The … ball … hit … the … fence. It skipped past the outfielder. I ran around the bases. My third-base coach called me home. I could have had an inside-the-park home run. But I stopped at third. You know why?”

“Cycle,” I said.

“I got the cycle. Singled, double, triple, home run. That night I was at the hotel relaxing. My friend Dizzy Dismukes comes up to my room and says, ‘Buck, there are some people downstairs I want you to meet.’ They were teachers from the local school. I walked downstairs and walked right up to one of those teachers. I said, ‘My name is Buck O’Neil, what’s yours?’ That was Ora. And we were married for 51 years.”

Buck smiled as he always did when the story ended. “That was my greatest day,” he said. “Easter Sunday, 1943. I hit for the cycle and met my Ora.”