Buck sure knew how to live

Buck at Satchel Paige Memorial Stadium in 2003.

The Kansas City Star

Editor’s note: This column was originally published in The Star on Nov. 14, 2003, the day after Buck O’Neil turned 92.

Four years ago, right before Buck O’Neil turned 88, I asked him for a few tips on how to handle the millennium. He said that people should hold hands, sing a little every day and drain the bitterness from their hearts. Well, he said a lot of things. That column inspired more e-mails and letters than almost anything I have written.

And the best part was that I didn’t even have to write. It was all Buck.

So here it is, four years later. Buck celebrated his 92nd birthday on Thursday, and I needed another free column. So what follows is another gift from Buck O’Neil — ballplayer, manager, scout, philosopher and pretty-darned-good golfer. He offers his secrets for living a long life.

In return, he asks only what he asked four years ago: That you join the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Call the museum at (816) 221-1920 and join. For Buck.

And now, we turn the column over to Buck O’Neil:

My secrets to long life, eh? Well, you’ll want to come in close.

Do the things you like doing. I’ve been so fortunate. I made my living doing something I would have done for nothing. I know not everyone can do that. But find time in your day to do what you love.

Listen to music. It doesn’t matter what kind. I listen to everything from the symphony to the blues. I even listen to some rap. Sometimes, I even understand what they’re saying. But it doesn’t matter what kind of music. Just listen to whatever gets your toes tapping.

Tell people you love ‘em every so often.

Get excited about what’s happening in your town. I’m so excited about the Chiefs right now, I can hardly stand it. People ask me whether the Chiefs are going to go undefeated. I say “Of course! It can happen. Why not?” I really believe they will win every game. And then we’ll have a celebration like this town hasn’t seen in a long time.

Wake up early. You don’t want to waste any sunshine.

Tell the truth when you can. And when you can’t, tell the truth anyway.

Believe in something big. I’ve been going to church every Sunday all my life. I believe in a supreme being. It fills my soul.

Play a little golf. It will break you sometimes. But every so often, you beat the game, and you feel like you can do anything in the world.

Don’t be silent when you see injustice. There’s one thing I do know - that there are more good people than bad. Stand up! Be heard! The only thing I ever held against good people was that too many sat silent and let a few white men be the Klan. Don’t let the bad people speak for you. Speak for yourself.

Throw a ball with a child.

Call an old friend you haven’t talked to in a long, long time. I promise you, it will add years to your life. And their life, too.

Let go of your grudges. Those aren’t hurting anybody but you. My daddy told me, bitterness only eats up the person being bitter.

Eat until you aren’t hungry.

Hustle. That’s how you’re supposed to play baseball, but that’s how you should live life, too. Be on time. Dress sharp. Be ready for anything.

Love people. It’s so much easier to love than to hate. When you love, you walk away with a good feeling. But when you hate, that anger will tear you up inside. And it will kill you dead. Yes, it will.

If you can’t remember if you gave someone a hug, well, hug ‘em again.

Look for the good in people. Everybody, no matter how bad they are, has some good in him. Find the good, and who knows? You might be able to change some of the bad, too.

Walk with just a little strut.

Remember your dreams, when you can.

Give a blanket to someone who is cold. Give a call to someone who is sick. Give a little of your time to someone who is dying. Just give what you can. You’ll find you get a whole lot more in return.

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