Mitch and I decide on lunch at 75th Street Brewery to consolidate two must-do items for today. Turns out to be a terrific choice on many levels.
First, the tender barbecue ribs possess all the flavor you expect. The fries and Scottish Ale provide just the right complements. I also try a Muddy Mo’ Stout as a finisher.
Along with excellent recommendations, our waiter offers a bit of historical data regarding the brewery, a fire and a rebirth from the ashes. We could stay all afternoon, but we have another must-do on our list: the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Along our journey toward 18th and Vine, we pass a large cemetery surrounded by stone walls and iron gates. Our Roger Maris gravesite visit in Fargo prompts Mitch to say, “I bet somebody famous is buried here.” I reply, “Hmmm. Maybe Buck O’Neil.” And we both think, “Of all the Kansas City area cemeteries, what are the odds?”
What’s the name of this cemetery? We pull over for some quick smartphone research.
Once again, UBT magic defeats the odds hands-down. This is it!
By sheer chance we enjoy lunch just where we would pass Forest Hill Cemetery on our way to the museum to honor Buck and his colleagues! Then a couple of off-hand remarks (as we are wont to do whenever we’re together, but especially when we drive a couple of thousand miles with one another), and we have another stop to make.
The sales office is in a small ranch house not far inside the gates. Immediately behind this building stands the Negro Leagues Museum monument to honor Buck O’Neil.
When seeing interviews, especially the Ken Burns’ “Baseball” segments, I’d always hoped to have a conversation with Buck. Mitch had been fortunate enough to gain an autograph some years ago.
As Mitch and I admire the majestic monument, a gentleman in a coat and tie approaches from the office. He’s carrying a folded paper and a pen. He compliments Mitch on his throwback Pirates cap, (which Mitch provided for each of us on our very first UBT).
After we talk for a few moments, he informs us that Buck isn’t buried here. At least not at this spot. And he begins to draw a map.
Several yards away in a row of grave markers not unlike any other, lie John J. and Ora Lee O’Neil. A modest gravesite for a man and his long time wife, who lived humbly and joyfully. One of the greatest players to never play in the major leagues.