Originally created 09/15/03

Baseball icon visits museum



Baseball fans and admirers browsed cards and collectibles and got autographs from a legend Sunday at the Augusta Museum of History's Family Fun Day.

This month's Family Fun Day featured an opening-day celebration for the national debut of an exhibition, The National Pastime in Black and White: The Negro Baseball Leagues, 1867-1955.

Baseball legend Buck O'Neil, 91, was the special guest.

The program had its usual food and drinks, and collectors were on hand answering questions and displaying historical baseball cards and pictures.

Participants toured the exhibit of pictures of Negro League players lining the walls of a second-floor room. Mr. O'Neil, a baseball player and manager years before becoming the first black to coach and then scout for the major leagues, led one of the tours, telling tales of the players.

In his first trip to Augusta since 1931, the Kansas City, Mo., resident also talked about changes he has seen, the importance of education and his career. He said that although he now plays golf and bridge, he still watches baseball.

"I see most home games when I'm in town," he said. "I watch some on TV, but I'd rather go because I'd like to be at the park."

Museum Director Scott Loehr said Mr. O'Neil's presence was what made the day special.

"More often than not, we learn history from pages of the text, but it's on rare occasions that we get it firsthand from someone who experienced it," he said.

Donna Pippen brought her two sons to the museum because she wanted them to know baseball's history. Her son Michael, 14, has been playing baseball for a few years, and 8-year-old Daniel will start next year.

She said she liked the assortment of what she saw.

"I think they did a beautiful job with all the displays, and there's so much to learn here," Ms. Pippen said. "And I was glad my sons got to meet a real legend."

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552.