A long-time enthusiast examines his evolving game


Paul O’Neill has flashbacks to his childhood at baseball’s All-Star Game.

He was 8 years old in 1971 when he rushed after playing ball outside his home in Ohio and watched in awe as Reggie Jackson took a huge swing.

“He hit a long home run from Dock Ellis, and he flew out of the transformer at Detroit’s old Tiger Stadium,” said O’Neill, now 51.

“I also remember Pete Rose crushing Ray Fosse,” he said, referring to a home plate clash in the 1970 game.

O’Neill, a former Cincinnati Reds and Yankees right fielder and YES analyst, was a five-time All-Star as a player, and he’ll have the chance to create new All-Star Game memories watching the contest 2014 Tuesday Nights on Fox.

Q Do you like that the outcome of the All-Star Game now decides home-court advantage in the World Series?

A. I like it, and I think it gives you some motivation. It used to be when the National League and American League didn’t play between leagues, it was enough to show that your league was better. I like something rolling over it. But regardless, I always thought it was fun because the Major League Baseball All-Star Game was more competitive than other sports.

Q You played before and after interleague play started. Which do you prefer?

A. I like interleague matches. But I’m still not sure if it happens every day of the season. It was always a fun little break. I love the Intracity interleague series. And being part of the Yankees, it was always a great thing to play against the Mets.

Q This is Derek Jeter’s last All-Star Game. What comes to mind when you think of him as a teammate?

A. He’s a superstar and the face of the Yankees. Most people in their senior year don’t make the All-Star Game, and that says a lot about him as a player. Mariano Rivera, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr. are three other players that come to mind. It really speaks to what they meant to baseball and what their names mean to fans.

Q George Steinbrenner called you a warrior. Were you satisfied with this label?

A. At the time, it was almost embarrassing. But now that I look back, that was a compliment. I have all the respect in the world for Mr. Steinbrenner. What we have achieved with these championships, it would not have happened without him as owner.

Q Michael O’Neill, your nephew, plays for the Yankees Class A team in Charleston, SC What is your scouting report?

A. He’s got a lot of talent, a lot of speed — a good outfielder with a good arm. He showed some power this year. He must learn to see the ball breaking and to hit it the other way. To be an everyday player, he needs to reduce strikeouts.

Q You were on the winning team for three perfect matches (by Tom Browning, David Cone and David Wells). What pressure did you feel on the pitch?

A. My thoughts were, Hit it on me for an easy game. You don’t want the in-between where you have to dive or get shot in the lights.

Q A few years ago there were rumors that you were interested in managing the Reds. Want to be a manager?

A. I wouldn’t count. I couldn’t go through the miners like the good old days. You see a lot of guys now becoming managers. Anyone who has played the game would probably like to be a manager.


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