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Nick’s Picks | Buck O’Neil Finally Enters the Hall of Fame Baseball, COVID and Heat Top the News This Week

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Above image credit: "Kansas City Week in Review" host Nick Haines. (John McGrath | Flatland)
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5 minute read

It’s been a long time coming.

The late Kansas City Monarchs legend Buck O’Neil will finally be granted a home in the National Baseball Hall of Fame this week.

His induction ceremony is this Sunday in Cooperstown, New York.

O’Neil was passed over for the honor shortly before his death in 2006.

O’Neil’s niece, Dr. Angela Terry, will speak on his behalf at the televised ceremony.

A special tribute to O’Neil is scheduled at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday. 

Buck O'Neil
Buck O’Neil stands with a statue of himself in the Negro League Baseball Museum in 2005. (AP Photo | Charlie Riedel)

All-Star Game

The struggling Kansas City Royals are getting most of this week off as Major League Baseball marks the mid-season break. Tuesday is the All-Star Game from Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles.

Left fielder Andrew Benintendi is the only member of the Royals to make the roster. He should be well rested. Benintendi was one of 10 Royals players forced to skip the team’s last series in Toronto due to Canadian restrictions on unvaccinated travelers.

While the All-Star Game gets underway in California Tuesday night, Kauffman Stadium will turn into one big noisy racket. 

The K will get a larger audience than usual as Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, Poison and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts are all scheduled to play in a mega-scale concert on the Royals’ home field.  

But scheduled is the key word. The show has already been postponed twice due to COVID.

COVID Makes a Comeback

We begin the week with COVID back in the headlines and renewed calls for indoor masking.

Though it’s unlikely any local elected leader is ready to enact a new mask mandate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now strongly recommending indoor mask wearing in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties in Kansas and Jackson County in Missouri.

All three counties appear on a CDC alert map showing places with the highest rates of COVID transmission.

COVID cases in the metropolitan area are up nearly 25% over last week. 

Jackson County is already requiring masks in all of its government buildings and has reinstated temperature check machines. 

Many private businesses, including our own television station, are now requiring staff to mask up. Several local retailers say they plan to reinstall “masks required” signs on their doors, starting today.

And the Kansas City Fringe Festival, which started over the weekend, is now requiring all ticket holders to wear masks to attend performances. 

While your chance of contracting the virus is now considered high, local hospitals acknowledge their not being besieged by new patients.

The newest data comes from Kansas health officials who say about 4.2% of all emergency department visits are for COVID-19. That’s up from 0.5% in early April, but far below the high of 15.6% in mid-January.

Catching Up

Heat Wave

An unrelenting heat wave will be one of the big storylines of the week.

If you’re already melting in these sweltering temperatures, the National Weather Service says it’s going to get even worse this week.

Kansas City will be hovering around 100 degrees or higher for the foreseeable future.

Temperatures are not expected to drop back into the 80s until the first week of August.

VFW Invades Downtown

More than 10,000 veterans from around the country are in Kansas City this week for the National VFW Convention. 

At a time when almost every aspect of life has become politically polarized, the military uniform still garners respect from leaders of both parties.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough are all scheduled to speak at the convention, which runs through Thursday at Bartle Hall.

Beefing Up Building Inspections 

A year ago, the collapse of a 12-story beachfront condo building in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida, was dominating the news cycle.

Nearly 100 people would lose their lives in the tragedy and it would ignite a nationwide debate over building inspections. Here in Kansas City, we were told high-rise towers did not undergo any routine checks by the city for structural soundness.

Now that might be changing. 

This week, the Kansas City Council begins debate on a new beefed up building inspection program. It would require regular structural checks on every building in the city more than four stories tall and built before 1950.

The measure would also require regular inspections of parking structures, private pedestrian bridges and non-city owned swimming pools.

The measure is scheduled to be discussed in the Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

Panasonic Deal

Kansas officials may still be nursing hangovers this morning after celebrating the biggest development deal in state history. But will we get answers this week to dozens of unanswered questions about Panasonic’s plan to build the largest electric vehicle battery plant in the Johnson County city of DeSoto?

The $4 billion project is estimated to create up to 4,000 new jobs. But so far there’s no word on when the plant would be built and it’s still unclear under what conditions the Japanese electronics giant could still pull out of the deal. 

Could ongoing contamination issues at their chosen site at the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant derail construction?

Could increased fears of a recession and supply chain difficulties prompt Panasonic to hit the pause button? 

Delays are already cropping up on some other megaprojects. In Ohio, Intel recently halted groundbreaking plans for a mammoth new microchip processing plant in the state.

Many local residents, though, are probably just wanting to know how they can snag one of these new “high paying” Panasonic jobs. That’s not clear yet either. We know Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says that Panasonic will pay salaries above $50,000 a year. But we don’t have any details on job requirements for workers or how you can apply.

Some local economists have argued the state is paying a steep price for those jobs. With Kansas giving away as much as $1 billion in incentives to lure the plant, the state is paying around $200,000 per job.

Train Service to St. Louis

If you’re a frequent train traveler, you know that COVID and budget cutbacks have sharply cut back daily service to St. Louis.

This week, it’s coming back.

Beginning today the state’s two largest cities are finally connected again with twice daily round-trips.

The route connects Kansas City to St. Louis with stops in Lee’s Summit, Warrensburg, Sedalia, Jefferson City and Hermann.

Distractions and Diversions

Lots of big names are heading into Kansas City this week.

Along with Def Leppard and the Mötley Crüe at Kauffman Stadium, Sheryl Crow is in town this week. She plays Grinders in the Crossroads on Thursday night.

Josh Groban is at Starlight Theatre on Friday.

Comedian and former Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney takes over the Starlight stage on Saturday night.

And reggae fans rejoice. Three days of reggae music will be featured as the Roots 22 Reggae Music and Jerk Festival takes up residence at Berkley Riverfront Park. It starts Friday.

For a more serene experience, you can have a close encounter with butterflies starting Thursday, as Powell Gardens presents its 25th annual “Festival of Butterflies.”

You can also check out the Water Lantern Festival Saturday night at Theis Park south of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Hundreds of lanterns will light up the night as they’re launched onto the water at Brush Creek.  The event is not free but you get to design your own lantern as part of the admission fee.

Nick Haines, tracks the week’s most impactful local news stories on “Kansas City Week in Review,” Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Kansas City PBS.

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