Buck O’Neil posthumously honored with key to City of Sarasota

The presentation followed the recent unveiling of a mural in the baseball legend’s memory.

SARASOTA, Fla — Days after a mural was unveiled honoring one of the most legendary figures in baseball history, Sarasota awarded a key to the city to the late legend: John “Buck” O’Neil.

O’Neil was born in Carrabelle but raised in Sarasota. He rose to prominence as a first baseman in the Negro Leagues before breaking barriers as the first Black coach in Major League Baseball.

Last week, 10 Tampa Bay covered the unveiling of a “larger-than-life” mural for O’Neil, who died in 2006. Now, O’Neil is being given yet another honor.

The nonprofit DreamLarge hosted a community celebration Sunday, at which Sarasota Vice Mayor Kyle Battie unveiled a key meant to commemorate O’Neil’s legacy in the Tampa Bay region.

“The key will be donated to the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition to be displayed at the future Sarasota African American Arts and Cultural Center located in Newtown,” DreamLarge wrote in an email.

The organization’s founder, Anand Pallegar, accepted the key in O’Neil’s memory.

“We came together with all of the organizations that helped us honor Buck today and ultimately decided that this key really belongs in the Sarasota African American Arts and Cultural Center so it can inspire future generations,” Pallegar wrote in a statement. “As an iconic baseball legend and historical figure from Newtown, his legacy in seeking equality in baseball for African Americans is something that every person in our community should understand and recognize.”

In a press release, Vice Mayor Battie said O’Neil’s contributions to Sarasota had left a profound impact on the Black community.

“He serves as a shining example of strength, and has broken down barriers for children and adults alike,” Battie said, according to DreamLarge. “It’s a humbling privilege to celebrate his well-deserved induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and bestow him the Key to the City.”

The previously-unveiled mural can be seen in the Rosemary Art & Design District, near the intersection of North Lemon Avenue and Boulevard of the Arts. 

The mural was painted by artist Matt McAllister and is part of the Gilbert Mural Initiative, which celebrates and preserves the people and history of the Rosemary Art & Design District. The district is also the first historically-Black community in Sarasota.

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