OBSERVATIONS: Some favorite Paul O’Neill ‘stories’

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after watching the Cincinnati Reds come up with four walk-off wins in a week against very good teams and wondering, “Where has this been all season?”

—One of my all-time favorite Cincinnati Reds player was Columbus-born outfielder Paul O’Neill. . .except on the day he waxed my posterior on a tennis court, 6-1, 6-0. And I think that one game I ‘won’ was a mercy gift. But O’Neill was good enough to work out on the courts with touring pro Jim Courier.

Who can forget that 1989 game in Philadelphia when O’Neill bobbled and dropped a base hit. Frustrated that he couldn’t pick it up, he kicked the ball. It traveled 100 feet right into the glove of first baseman Todd Benzinger, preventing a runner to score from second base.

After the game, Philadelphia manager Nick Leyva said, “We had a scouting report on O’Neill’s arm, but not on his foot.”

O’Neill, a born line drive gap hitter — doubles were his gourmet dinners — was 6-toot-4 and weighed 210 pounds. Teammates nicknamed him ‘Big.’

With O’Neill’s size, manager Lou Piniella thought he should hit more home runs, but O’Neill resisted and remained true to his approach.

One day as I stood next to Piniella at the batting cage, O’Neill was spraying line drives to all corners of Riverfront Stadium. Piniella said to me, loud enough for O’Neill to hear, “Look at that. Big O’Neill. Big O’Neill by a**.”

—The volatile O’Neill, talking about the easy-going demeanor of teammate Derek Jeter: “If he went 0 for 5, he’d walk nonchalantly out of the clubhouse eating an ice cream cone. If I went 0 for 5, I’d be throwing a container of ice cream against a wall.”

—Speaking of Paul O’Neill, the father of the world’s tallest shortstop was a big Paul O’Neill fan, so he named his son after him.

But he didn’t know now to spell and left an ‘l’ out of his name — Pittsburgh’s O’Neil Cruz. At 6-foot-7, Cruz is the tallest player ever to play shortstop in an MLB game.

With that height, maybe he should have named him after Shaquille O’Neal, but maybe he didn’t know how to spell O’Neal.

—One more Paul O’Neill tidbit. Everybody knows that former Yankee Bernie Williams was a concert-accomplished guitarist. What folks don’t know is that Paul O’Neill played back-up drums for him. And you can rest assured that O’Neill pounded the bejeezus out of those percussions.

—How do they find this stuff so fast? No sooner had Reds pinch-runner Mark Koloszvary crossed home plate for a walk-off win on Tampa Bay pitcher Matt Wisler’s balk (a balk-off win) than an announcement was made:

“That was the 23rd time in MLB history for a balk to end a game and the first for the Reds since 1965. With Tony Perez at the plate, Chicago Cubs pitcher Ernie Broglio balked home the winning run.”

Ernie Broglio? He was part of one of the worst trades in MLB history. The Cubs sent Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals for Broglio and a couple of other trinkets.

In three years, Broglio was 7-and-19 for the the Cubs and Brock stole his way into the Hall of Fame.

The Cubs should have balked at making that trade.

—On the same night the Reds scored their balk-off win, former Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez did it in a more conventional way for the Seattle Mariners — a three-run walk-off homer for a 5-2 win over Toronto in 11 innings.

It was his 15th homer and 44th RBI, but his slash line is familiar to Reds’ fans — .243/.334/.447, And he has struck out 114 times. He is on pace to eclipse the all-time record of 223 whiffs by Mark Reynolds in 2009. Adam Dunn fell one swing-and-miss short of that record in 2012 when he fanned 222 times in 2012 for the Chicago White Sox.

—Multi-talented Hall of Fame writer Jayson Stark presented his half-season awards in ‘The Athletic’ and he was none too kind to the Reds. . .deservedly so.

In addition to handing out MVP awards, he presented LVP (Least Valuable Player) awards. He gave the entire Reds team an LVP.

“This is about a lineup that was supposed to hit — but instead has descended to the bottom of The Big Reds Ravine (or Latrine).”

Stark pointed out that 14 Reds position players have a negative Wins Above Replacement rating, a minus 8.4. . .and eight others are at 0.0. That they’ve been outhomered 115 to 73. And that they’ve been outscored by 105 runs.

Thanks, Jayson, and we’ll have another.

—The Cleveland Browns traded quarterback Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers and guess what. . .the Brown first regular-season game this year is against Carolina.

If Mayfield wins the starting spot, he can wreak a bucket full of revenge on the Browns. And who will quarterback the Browns. It most likely won’t be DeShaun Watson. He’ll be serving his suspension.

Ever hear of Jacoby Brissett? Me, neither. But right now, he’s the guy. What’s Brian Sipe doing these days?

—Hall of Fame golfer Ernie Els has a perspective that matches mine on the Saudi-backed LIV golf tour.

“It’s 54 holes, no cut, shotgun start, everybody gets a ‘trophy.’ If feels like it’s silly-season golf,” said Els. To me, it’s glorified Putt-Putt. The only thing missing on the LIV tour is a windmill on a green.

—In our last episode, I listed my favorite baseball movies and some readers responded with what they considered good ones that I neglected:

Mr. Baseball, Pride of the Yankees, Alibi Ike, The Winning Team, The Monty Stratton Story, It Happens Every Spring.

Baseball movies on my terrible list:

The Babe Ruth Story and The Babe (William Bendix and John Goodman as ‘The Babe,’ are you kidding me?), Summer Catch, Trouble With the Curve, The Fan, Rookie of the Year, The Slugger’s Wife, the Major League sequels.

—An early nomination for the worst TV commercial of the year: The Meineke commercials with the little dweeb trying to use a German accent. The whole concept is awful.

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