They were two of seven Negro League and pre-Negro League players who were being considered Sunday for induction into the Hall of Fame. O’Neil and Fowler join four other candidates — Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso and Tony Oliva — as part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2022.
The six players will officially be inducted in Cooperstown, New York, on July 24, 2022, according to the Hall of Fame website.
O’Neil, who was known as an ambassador for baseball, played 10 seasons with the Memphis Red Sox and Kansas City Monarchs, according to the Hall of Fame. After his playing career, O’Neil became a scout for the Chicago Cubs and would go on to become the first Black coach in American League or National League history with Chicago.
Fowler has been acknowledged as the first Black professional baseball player, according to the Hall of Fame. He pitched and played second base for different teams in more than a dozen leagues before his death in 1913.
The election of these two players into the Hall of Fame comes one year after Major League Baseball announced it was recognizing the Negro Leagues as a major league and counting the statistics and records of thousands of Black players as part of the game’s storied history.
MLB said it was “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history” by elevating the status of the Negro Leagues — which consisted of seven leagues and about 3,400 players from 1920 to 1948.
The decline of the Negro Leagues began in 1947 when Jackie Robinson became MLB’s first Black player, joining the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In 1969, the Special Committee on Baseball Records did not include the Negro Leagues among six “Major Leagues” it identified since 1876.