Paul O'Neill was named the Warrior by George Steinbrenner because he truly was. He was passionate about his craft, and loved the game of baseball. He also loved winning and it became evident when he became a New York Yankee.
He was in his little world in Cincinnati and that town loved him. When he came to the Bronx and we gave away Roberto Kelly, many asked why, but soon enough, we understood. Paulie IS the ultimate Warrior. 5 championships, clutch hits, great plays defensively, and always the look of determination on his face. It's why we fell in love with him... losing wasn't an option.
When we interviewed Paul O'Neill for Bleeding Yankee Blue in 2011, there were so many questions I wanted answered and I could have went on for hours, but we tried to keep it concise, as not to annoy. Paulie answered my questions and I will always appreciate his courteousness. His answers you will only see here on Bleeding Yankee Blue.
I wanted to share a portion of that interview on this day, honoring the Warrior. (You can read the full interview here, EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: PAUL O'NEILL):
BYB: You had a career in the making in Cincinnati with 1 championship already under your belt. Then you were traded to the Yankees in November 1992. What was your reaction?
Paul O'Neill: Totally bummed. Disappointed in myself that the Reds didn’t want me. After a lot of unnecessary beating myself up, it all worked out for the good. I’ll always be a Yankee first. I won the most there, it is the greatest city in the world with the best fans. Usually, they have a good team to cheer for.
BYB: My son once asked me why you got so angry if you got an out in a big moment. I told him because Paul O’Neill wanted to hit the ball every time. Would that be a safe assessment of your passion for the game?
Paul O'Neill: That’s half of it. I tend to be a perfectionist, hating failure. That may have started long ago as the youngest of six. There were so many of us, you sort of had to vie for dad’s praise and attention. But baseball is a game where great hitters get beat 7 out of 10 times. Where a guy could play fifteen years and feel accomplished because he has two World Series rings. Over 95% of roster players go home losing every year in baseball. I probably needed a thicker skin. I spent too many sleepless nights going over strikeouts or popups.
BYB: George Steinbrenner created the nickname “The Warrior” for you. What’s it like to have the owner of the Yankees give you a nickname that represents pure guts?
Paul O'Neill: He thought that is how all his players should be. He’d notice too if you weren’t giving everything you had. Don’t forget how much experience Mr. Steinbrenner had in the world of sports. He knew a few things about what won championships. But I will always be grateful for his choice of words. It is a good feeling never to be traded by an organization.
That's just 3 of several questions we asked Paulie, and as you can see, he wasn't shy about his answers. He speaks his mind and you have to admire that about him. Always 100%... that's Paulie.
I wanted to share this video I found online. The quality is terrible, but it brings you back to the Paul O'Neill chant in 2001. The last game Paul O'Neill played in Yankee Stadium. It still gives me chills.
Well, we've come full circle. Today we honor him, and on a beautiful day in the Tri-State and it just makes sense.
A Salute to the Warrior! You were amazing and the best at what you did. Be proud, no one can take that away from you!
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