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EP345: Grant and Twain Christopher Klein, The 46 Year-Long Journey to Finding My Sisters and Buck O'Neil's Lesson on Dealing With Defeat Like a Man

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 10, 2022 3:00 am

EP345: Grant and Twain Christopher Klein, The 46 Year-Long Journey to Finding My Sisters and Buck O'Neil's Lesson on Dealing With Defeat Like a Man

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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June 10, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Christopher Klein tells the story of the former president and Civil War hero, Ulysses S. Grant, and how he raced to complete a literary masterpiece that saved his wife from destitution with the aid of Mark Twain. Years after finding out she was adopted, Traci Huguley discovered she was not the only child adopted out. Bob Kendrick tells the story of former Negro Leagues Baseball player Buck O'Neil and how Buck handled being rejected from the National Baseball Hall of Fame "like a man". 

Support the show (https://www.ouramericanstories.com/donate)

 

Time Codes:

00:00 - Grant and Twain Christopher Klein

12:30 - The 46 Year-Long Journey to Finding My Sisters

37:00 - Buck O'Neil's Lesson on Dealing With Defeat Like a Man

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Send them to OurAmericanStories.com. Up next, Christopher Cline is the author of four books, and he's a frequent contributor to the History Channel, National Geographic, and American Heritage. You've heard Chris tell the story of how Johnny Carson saved Twister. He's back with another one. Aided by Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant, former president and Civil War hero, raced to complete a literary masterpiece that saved his wife from destitution.

Here's Christopher Cline with a story. Shortly before noon on May 6th, 1884, Ulysses S. Grant entered the office of his Wall Street brokerage firm, A Wealthy Man. Hours later, he exited a pauper. Thanks to a pyramid scheme operated by his unscrupulous partner, Ferdinand Ward, Grant's investment firm had instantly collapsed, wiping out his life savings. Grant had all of $80 left to his name. His wife, Julia, she had another $130.

Kind-hearted strangers responded by mailing Grant checks. Desperate to pay his bills, the former president cashed them. Still smarting from bankruptcy's bitter sting, Grant that summer suffered from an excruciating sting in his throat as well. When he finally visited a doctor in October, Grant learned he had incurable throat and tongue cancer, likely a product of his longtime cigar-smoking habit. Grant had been no stranger to financial misfortune. Failing as a farmer and a rent collector prior to the Civil War, he lived in a log cabin that he dubbed Hardscrabble and sold firewood on the streets of St. Louis to make ends meet.

However, now that he was confronting the terrifying prospect of leaving Julia a penniless widow, the grizzled general who fought to save the Union undertook one final mission to save his family from impoverishment. Divested of his property and possessions, Grant still retained something of great value, his recollections of past glory. Although he appeared taciturn and reserved, Grant was a convivial storyteller who entertained friends such as Mark Twain with yarns of war and politics. For years, Twain had suggested that Grant pen his memoirs.

Now destitute, the former president finally agreed to cash in on his celebrity. In need of financial rescue himself after a series of failed investments, the debt-ridden Twain inked Grant to a contract with his newly launched publishing house and gave him a $1,000 check to cover living expenses. Engaged in a furious race against time as the cancer attacked his body, Grant dug into his writing with military efficiency, churning out as many as 10,000 words in a single day.

He pored through tall stacks of orders and maps that helped him to recreate his most famous battles with minute fidelity. Grant astounded Twain with not just the quantity but the quality of his prose. Grant penned his manuscript until his hand grew too feeble in the spring of 1885, forcing him to employ a stenographer. Even speaking, however, became laborious as his condition deteriorated. Following the advice of doctors who vouched for the salubrious power of pure mountain air, Grant decamped at the onset of summer from his Manhattan brownstone to an Adirondack resort. In a cottage on the slopes of Mount McGregor, Grant launched his final campaign to complete his tome. With excruciating pain accompanying every swallow, Grant was unable to eat solid food, his body withered by the day, the voice that once commanded armies could barely muster a whisper. While Grant's doctors gave him morphine only sparingly in order to keep his mind clear for writing, they swabbed his throat with cocaine to provide topical pain relief and used hypodermic needles to inject him with brandy during the worst of his coughing fits. Through it all, Grant persisted in honing his manuscript, editing, adding new pages, pouring over proofs in his first volume as he sat on the cottage porch on even the steamiest of days, followed in blankets, a wool hat, and a scarf covering his neck tumor, which was now, according to a New York Sun, as big as a man's two fists put together. When his voice finally abandoned him, Grant scribbled his thoughts in pencil on small slips of paper. When Twain visited Grant at the cottage, he brought the good news that he had already pre-sold 100,000 copies of the autobiography. A relieved Grant knew he had succeeded in giving Julia and his children financial security. With his mission accomplished, Grant finally laid down his pen on July 16th after crafting a Herculean 366,000 words in less than a year.

Seven days later, Grant's pulse flickered and ultimately gave out. Employing an army of door-to-door salesmen, Twain sold more than 300,000 copies of the personal memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. The two-volume box set even outsold Twain's latest work, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and resulted in Julia Grant receiving $450,000 in royalties, equivalent to $12 million today. Grant's memoir proved not just a commercial success, but a literary one as well. Although he omitted discussion of his presidency or sensitive personal matters such as his drinking, many scholars consider Grant's autobiography the finest memoir ever penned by an American president, and perhaps the foremost military memoir in the English language.

And a great job by Greg Hengler and a special thanks to Christopher Klein. And he's the author of four books and a frequent contributor to the History Channel, National Geographic, and American Heritage. And what a story indeed. Grant's last battle was against the clock, and it was for his family. And he held out, and as always, the warrior fought to the end.

My goodness, anyone who knows anything about Grant as a warrior knows that, well, now they know another side of his warrior spirit. 300,000-plus words in less than a year, and all to save his family. And he doesn't just pen any memoir. Read the book, pick it up, go to Amazon and order it, and just start reading it aloud to your family. It is indeed classic American literature, and it, of course, took a voice like Mark Twain's to discover it.

Both men, by the way, routinely in financial ruin throughout their lives. The story of Mark Twain and Ulysses S. Grant's race against the clock to save the great Civil War hero's family from destitution, here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country, and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history, from war to innovation, culture, and faith, are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College, a place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.

Go to hillsdale.edu to learn more. Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit uhcmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. It's true! I had one that night, and I took my NerdTek ODT, and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends.

This episode was brought to you by NerdTek ODT Remedipant 75 mg. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family, but thankfully NerdTek ODT Remedipant 75 mg is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults, so lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. And we're back with our American Stories. Up next, you're going to hear from Tracy Ugoli. She's telling the story of her adoption and the 46-year-long journey of searching for her sisters, who were adopted by different families.

Here's Tracy with her story. I had mom and dad, and they had a son and a daughter, and my brother was almost 20 years older than me. Then I had a sister named Mary, and she was 15 years older than me. So I was kind of the only one in the house with mom and dad, and a lot of people think my life sounds like something you would have on Oprah or have on a talk show.

But honestly, my life was very, very low-key and chill. Every day my dad came in from work, and my mom had supper on the table, and she washed the dishes, and I dried them, and we watched TV at night and got up in the mornings, and my mom made breakfast, and it was just very normal. Of course, I never knew I was adopted. I was adopted sometime before I was a year old, and my parents treated the word adoption like a bad word.

So we never said the A-word at our house, and so therefore I didn't even know. A neighbor's child told me I was adopted, and I was like in the fourth grade, and I didn't even know what that meant. So she sat me down, she kind of walked back and forth in front of me, and she was like, okay, so you know your parents? Well, they're not your real parents. They adopted you. And of course it was a little scary, and it was sad, and she said, have you not ever noticed how much older they are than everybody else's parents?

And I said no, and I noticed from that point on. When I went home that night, of course I asked my mom if I was adopted, and you could just see the blood drain out of her face. I guess it was kind of her worst fear happening because she didn't ever talk to me about being adopted.

And so I had no concept of what that even was, and of course I didn't get to play with that little girl for a year. But my mother just really put it to bed for me. She said, we chose you, we wanted you, we picked you, you're special. And I felt like a prized possession. It was very, very comforting what my mother said to me.

The only drawback was the fear that I kind of had. Every night then I was sad because I was afraid something was going to happen to my parents because now I was super aware that they were older than everybody else's parents. So you fast forward and now I know and I'm aware, and so I had a cousin that I was really close to. She was like a year and a half older than me. And she told me one day when we were playing, I was probably in about the sixth grade now, she said, you know we're really sisters.

And I said, you know, no, I had no idea. Because when I found out, and my mom and we talked about it, she didn't say any details. So now, all of a sudden, I find out I have a sister. I loved finding that out, it was kind of our little secret. We didn't talk about it, it was just something we knew. And we have always had really close bond.

And so it's always been wonderful to have Renee in my life. And she had another sister and a brother. So we all had the same biological mother. So now I know that I have a sister and then her younger sister, and then we have an older brother.

So now I realize there's three girls and a boy. Well, also my sister that was my friend, cousin, Renee, she knew that there was two other siblings that were adopted out at birth. So she began to tell me the stories over the years. I guess as she found out more information growing up, she would share it with me. So there was two adopted out at birth, born in 73 and 75. We did not know them, they were adopted out through DHS and the system in Alabama. So as me and Renee began to get older and have families, the curiosity was a lot. It was very, very private adoptions.

It was through the state of Alabama. I grew up and became a nurse, so I went and looked at my file in the health department. And I asked questions to friends and people that were there. Of course, they couldn't tell me anything. But the truth was their files were sealed so that you couldn't find out anything because it was a private adoption through the state of Alabama. Nobody, even from our town, knew where they were because we were friends with the attorney that handled it.

We were friends with judges and they couldn't even help us because it was private adoptions through the state and everything was done in Montgomery and you couldn't find them. I just knew their biological names and I knew the date that they were born on. So I would always kind of, out of curiosity, say, hey, when's your birthday? Any time anybody would say, hey, you kind of look like so-and-so's wife, or have you met so-and-so? They really look like you.

I always wondered, is this somebody that's in my school? When we went to Disney World, I wondered, oh, could they be here? If we were shopping out of town, I would wonder when I passed people. It was not a little thing.

It was kind of a big deal. Where are these two siblings? Where are my two sisters? Because I was very close to the ones that I did know. And you would be surprised at how that just was a theme in life. No matter where I was, if someone looked close to my age and favored me in any way, I had this burden almost to find out what their birthday was. It was just such a letdown every time.

I don't know what I expected. At some point, I just thought somebody was going to say those dates, and when they never did, it was just another letdown. It was hundreds of times. It was my whole life. In 2018, I got a call from my friend that had also had a situation where she found out about her adoption.

She called me and said, you have to get on Ancestry.com. And, of course, I was just, I don't know, I've been burned so many times in finding out things that I just was like, okay, I'll do it. So I got on there and ordered my kit, and it came in in just like two days.

And I did the kit, sent it off, but really just forgot about it. Well, in about six weeks, I opened my email one morning and absolutely freaked out. I opened my email and had a match, immediately had a match for a half-sister, and it blew my mind. Ancestry is a little hard to read.

It gives you like several options. It said half-sister or like first cousin once removed, and you're like, okay, so this possibly could be. So I messaged her and said, okay, hey, I think we may be related.

Call me. Well, then I called my sister Renee and I told her, okay, you're not going to believe this, but I've messaged someone that we have a match with. I can't wait to hear back.

I don't know what it is for sure. And so she didn't respond. So, of course, I messaged her again about lunch, and I kept thinking, whoever this is, maybe she'll see it during lunch, and she didn't. So then I continued to Facebook. Her spelling of her name was a little different, so it was easy to find her.

I was like, oh, my goodness, that looks like me. And you're listening to Tracy Ugli, and she's on a mission, a sort of a CSI case, to find out who her sister is. By the way, hearing her parents say these words, we chose you, we wanted you, you're special. And her saying, I felt like a prized possession, well, it says everything about the power of love and adoption. We love adoption stories here on Our American Stories, and they're complicated.

When we come back, more of Tracy Ugli's quest to find her siblings and find out who she is and who her people are here on Our American Stories. Music Soon millions will make Medicare coverage decisions for next year, and UnitedHealthcare can help you feel confident about your choices. For those eligible, Medicare annual enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. If you're working past age 65, you might be able to delay Medicare enrollment depending on your employer coverage.

It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit uhcmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. Music I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, and for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. Hey you guys, this is Tori and Jenni with the 902.1 OMG Podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by NerdTech ODT. We recorded it at iHeartRadio's 10th poll event, Wango Tango. Did you know that NerdTech ODT Remedipant, 75 milligrams, can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango?

It's true! I had one that night, and I took my NerdTech ODT, and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by NerdTech ODT Remedipant, 75 milligrams.

Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family, but thankfully NerdTech ODT Remedipant, 75 milligrams, is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So, lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. Music And we return to our American stories and to Tracy Ugoli telling the story of her adoption. When we last left off, she just matched with someone on Ancestry.com who could possibly be her sister. So I messaged her on Facebook, and by the time she got off work, she had several missed messages from someone named Tracy. So that afternoon, I had a call, and me and my husband passed her church.

And so I was actually in church, and I got up and ran to my office. And immediately when we heard each other's voices, it's hard to describe. We just knew something special was happening, and the first thing I asked her was her birthday, which was the question I had asked so many people for so many years. And she said that magical date, January 21, 1975. I can't explain all of the emotions that happened in that moment because it was like an age-old puzzle was put together for me, and it was amazing.

I could have just laid down on the floor and felt like my life is starting to come together in this area. And she didn't understand that question. It was my question to be answered. So it was big. I tried to explain to her how we had looked for her and how we were so curious about her for all these years. And she was overwhelmed to find out that people were out there that really cared about her and wanted to know where she was. And she told me about having great parents. And I guess the next thing she said blew my mind. She said, you know, there's two of us.

And I said, I know there's two of y'all, but how do you know there's two of y'all? And she said, well, I found the other one when I was 18 years old. So I said, OK, what's her name? And she said her name is Stacy. So I was talking to Sherry and Sherry then told me there was a girl named Stacy and she was the 1973 girl. So she was the girl that was right after me. And one thing that was so neat about it is their their birth names were changed.

So it would have been very, very difficult to find them because their names were changed. And when I finally talked to Stacy on the phone, the first question I asked her was her birthday. I don't remember thinking about it.

It just wasn't. It was just a reflex. And she told me her birthday and it was it was just crazy. So we quickly started having correspondence with all of us. And we planned a meeting place. They lived 30 minutes apart.

And of course, me and Renee lived 30 minutes apart. So we just picked a place that was halfway and met in the lobby of a hotel. And it was very, very surreal. We were all crying, hugging and crying. I don't know that we really said anything at first because we were just overcome with emotion. And then we wound up just renting a suite and we went upstairs and just spent the day laughing and talking. So we had just the best day together. That day will probably always really stand out in my mind just having all of my questions answered.

It was really, really special. We talked about birthday parties. We talked about things we had missed with each other. We talked about each other's families and our kids and our life growing up. We talked a lot about our likes and how they were similar.

We did not grow up together, but you could not tell it about the way we wore our hair, ways we dressed and things we did that were very, very similar. This sounds crazy, but it was the very first day we met. We were in a restaurant and we were saying, I wonder if they have this kind of dessert. We had gotten some pie. We're like, we wish they had strawberry cake. We were laughing so hard because it was like, is that your favorite too?

Is that your favorite too? It was kind of a funny thing just to think, okay, we all like the same cake. When we went back to the hotel room, we kind of took bites of our food and would say, hey, this is for your eighth birthday.

Hey, this is for your ninth birthday. And we just kind of celebrated the fact that we all love sweets and we all miss those times together, but we're going to have this now for that. I think we all liked Prince. So we were laughing about we all knew all the same words to the songs. So I looked from I remember being in high school and starting to wonder about people all the way. And I'm talking about the summer before I found them. We were on the way from the beach. And a girl at Cracker Barrel in South Alabama said, hey, you look just like this girl that was doing some theater. And I literally thought, how do I find this person's phone number?

How do I find a way to ask this person their birthday? And so I really had not given up, but I sure had not envisioned how this would wind up happening. It felt like there was a piece of me that was full and fulfilled.

I didn't know what they would be like. Of course, I had some reservations that, you know, it wouldn't be the kind of reunion that we really did have. But thankfully, we were all people that just came together really, really easily and that we were ready.

I think that's the big deal. We were all ready for it. If in certain areas of our life, certain time frames, I don't know that we would have been ready to just jump in the way that we did. But it worked out really, really well. I had no idea that our kids would love each other and our husbands would all get along and that we would enjoy each other's companies on this big scale that we do. We pray together. We have Bible study together some. We have made up for a lot of years in this short time by some of the things that we've been able to get together and do. We will get a lake house together a couple of times a year.

We love each other's kids and we get together for Christmas. And as our families got smaller losing parents and that type of thing, it's like now we've had this come into our world and all of us have each other. And so when we look back over it all, we all had great people loving on us and taking good care of us.

So much that we're so thankful for. And we all get together and we just cook and laugh and sometimes we'll just meet at my house and we'll swim. It's just fun going to Walmart together because we're just enjoying the fact that we found each other. We've only known each other a short time, but it feels like we just picked up where we could have always been. We're not bitter that we didn't have our growing up together. We're just thankful that we have each other now. And a great job on that piece by Madison. And the piece is dripping with gratitude and love.

And my goodness, imagine being in that lobby and just watching that and wondering what's going on. These strangers meeting and picking up as if they'd known each other forever. We all had similar hair. We all had a similar fondness for strawberry cake.

We even all liked prints. And for those who don't believe in God, this is a test. There's God's footprint all over this and a beautiful get together, a beautiful gathering. And again, the power of love, the power of adoption. And if you have an empty home, think about it.

Think about loving a stranger. Think about adopting one and how it could change a world and then the world. The story of Tracy Ugli, the story of so many adoptees here on Our American Stories.

It can seem confusing, but it doesn't have to be. Visit UHCmedicarehealthplans.com to learn more. UnitedHealthcare, helping people live healthier lives. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot.

And I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners, too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

Call your local State Farm agent for a quote today. It's true. I had one that night and I took my NERTEC ODT and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by NERTEC ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family.

But thankfully, NERTEC ODT Remedipant 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. And we continue with our American stories up next, a story from Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. Today, Bob shares with us a story about one of his friends, Buck O'Neill.

Take it away, Bob. Our guests walk into the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and you literally walk through the turnstiles into an old ballpark. And the first thing that you see is the field, the Field of Legends. And the Field of Legends is a mock baseball diamond that houses 10 of 12 life-sized bronze sculptures of Negro League greats.

And they are cast in position as if they were playing a game. Now, on the outside looking in is my dear friend, the late great Buck O'Neill, who was the only one of our collection of statues that wasn't in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Well, thankfully, on December 5th of 2021, Buck O'Neill received enough votes to now be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 15 years after he missed by one vote.

I'll never forget that day as long as my mother would say, I'm in my natural mind. It was the morning of February 27th, 2006, and Buck O'Neill and I left home with suitcases packed with airline tickets that the Hall of Fame had purchased for us. That's how sure we were that Buck was going to get in.

This was just a mere formality. And so there was a group of 12 Negro League historians, researchers, educators. They were to gather down in Tampa, Florida, where they were going to make the decision on the final group of Negro Leaguers who had gone through the process and made the final ballot.

The late great Buck O'Neill and now the late great Minnie Minoso were the only two living names on that list. And so we were going to fly. After the announcement, Buck and I would fly down to Tampa, where he would participate in a press conference the very next day.

And so at that time, I was the marketing director for the museum. And so I had brokered a deal with our partner, then Sprint, now T-Mobile. And they had provided a Sprint phone for me and a Sprint phone for Buck. And so we're going to take the Hall of Fame call on the Sprint phone, and then Sprint was going to pay us a bunch of money to help build the Buck O'Neill Education and Research Center. And so the call was supposed to come to me that morning at around 11 o'clock.

Well, 11 o'clock rolls around. I don't get a phone call. About noon, my colleague, Dr. Ray Doswell, who was one of the 12 people who had gathered there in Tampa to make this decision, he calls and says, Bob, this thing is looking really tight. We've done strong vote, and Buck is coming up one vote shy.

Former Commissioner Faith Vinson, who was overseeing the committee, didn't have a vote. He was overseeing the committee, says he's reconvened us so that we can talk specifically about Buck O'Neill and Minnie Minoso. The only two guys that were still alive on this list of 30 plus. Well, my good friend Joe Posnanski was sitting right where you're sitting. And as Joe come out, I said, hey, man, I just got a call from Ray.

He says this thing is looking tight. Buck is coming up one vote shy. He's in disbelief. Finally, around 2 o'clock, I get a call from Jeff Idelson.

Jeff Idelson was then the vice president of marketing for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. And Jeff calls me and he says, Bob, Buck didn't get enough votes. And I felt like someone had kicked me in my gut because now I've got to come back in this conference room and tell my friend that he didn't get enough votes when I know in his heart he thought he was in.

Why wouldn't he? And so I come back in. I excuse a few folks. Buck was seated right there at the head of the table and I sit down and I am literally trying to collect my thoughts. I don't know how I'm going to tell him. And so I finally look up at Buck and I say, well, Buck, we didn't get enough votes. And he looks up at me and he smiles. He said, well, that's how the cookie crumbles. And in the next voice, he asked me how many had gotten in.

I said 17. Now, I'll be honest, I was furious because in my mind you couldn't put 17 in and leave Buck out. He hits the table in utter jubilation. He is excited that 17 of his colleagues had gotten their rightful place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Now, as a steward of this story, I should have had that same kind of feeling. But I was upset because my guy didn't get in and he asked me who they were.

And at that point in time, I didn't have that information. And the next words that came out of his mouth, I wonder if the Hall of Fame will invite me to speak. Now, my friend Joe Posnacki, my brother, he's turned beet red and he looks at Buck and he says, Buck, you wouldn't do that, would you? And Buck says, Joe, of course I would. What has my life been about? And I said, well, Buck, I need to go downstairs because downstairs we had well over 300 plus people who had gathered for what we all thought was going to be a Hall of Fame celebration announcement.

Well, as I oftentimes tell this story from this conference room to the field of legends where we had the podium set up at second base was the longest walk of my life. I was literally coaching myself. Bob, you can't cry. Whatever you do, you can't cry. You got to suck it up. Now, the more I'm telling myself not to cry, tears are steady building in my eyes.

I get to the podium and this is the honest to God's truth. I have no idea what I said. I've never gone back to watch the video.

I don't know if I ever will. Whatever it was that I said, there wasn't a dry eye in the room. People were openly emotional. And this wasn't disappointment. This was outrage. This was anger.

How dare they? And Buck walks in through our gift shop and the room erupts into a thunderous ovation. And Buck O'Neill walks up to the podium and delivers one of the most amazing concession speeches that I'd ever heard. What he did that day was he literally implored all of us not to be angry, not to be bitter, not to express any ill will toward anyone who had anything to do with this decision.

He said, I had an opportunity. And in this great country of ours, that's all you could ever ask. They didn't think old Buck was good enough. We got to live with that.

But if I'm a Hall of Famer in your eyes, that's all that matters to me. Just keep on loving old Buck. Now, I'm over in the corner at this point in time. I'm a wreck. You know, tears are just streaming down my face and uncontrollably. But what Buck O'Neill did that day was he literally reached out his arms and wrapped them around all of us and said, it's OK.

Instead of us consoling him, he's consoling us. And what I still say to this day, to be one of the most amazing displays of strength of character that I had ever witnessed. He would push aside his disappointment, go to Cooperstown, deliver this incredible speech on behalf of 17 dead folks.

When the world was saying, this should be your induction speech. And what I still say today was the most selfless act in American sports history. What Buck O'Neill did that day was he literally gave us a lesson on how to handle disappointment. Because he handled it so graciously that people thought he wasn't disappointed. But of course he was.

The Hall of Fame represents the pinnacle for any athlete. And Buck knew he was sick at that time. Just over two months later, my friend Buck O'Neill passed away himself at age 94, a month shy of his 95th birthday. This was going to be his swan song, even though he never complained, even though he understood what his health situation was like and what the doctors had already prepared him for. And so, yeah, he handled the disappointment, well, he handled it like a man. And so he was never going to be so sullen about his rejection that he couldn't be genuinely joyous for those who had gotten their place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. And so I'm trying to be more Buck-like. You'll see a man that you'd want to emulate and be. By the end of his speech, he had athletes, famous ballplayers, announcers and family members of Jackie Robinson and ordinary fans holding hands and singing and praising the idea of love and of God. The story of Buck O'Neill here on Our American Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-16 12:02:40 / 2023-02-16 12:18:16 / 16

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