As a player, fiery New York Yankees outfielder Paul O’Neill was a water cooler’s worst nightmare. What we didn’t know until Monday, though, is that O’Neill was, and still is, himself haunted — by The Voice of God.
When home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt was knocked out of Monday night’s Yankees-Blue Jays game before the start of the third inning after getting nicked by a foul ball, his replacement, second-base umpire Scott Barry, had to rush back to the umpire’s room to get his gear on so play could resume.
For O’Neill, now a YES analyst, the moment reminded him of a recurring dream he has, starring late Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard.
Here’s how O’Neill described it on Monday’s broadcast:
Paul O’Neill: “It’s weird, Michael [Kay]. I have this reoccurring dream once in a while, all right? I’m going to let you into my world here. And every once in a while I have it and I can hear Bob Sheppard saying, ‘Now batting, Paul O’Neill.’ And I’m in the locker room, trying, and I can’t get my socks on. And I try to pull … and I keep hearing him say my name, I can’t get my uniform on, I can’t get up to the plate, and it, you know how frustrating it is, and everybody’s waiting, and I just wonder, did the umpire, you know, there’s 35,000 people out here waiting, while you run in there to get your uniform on, and all your equipment, it just brought me back.”
Michael Kay: “Wow, that’s very deep.”
O’Neill: “I’m not ready! I’m not ready for something. I can hear Bob Sheppard, ‘now hitting,’ and I cannot get the socks on. They won’t go on!”
Ken Singleton: “You have to talk to a qualified professional to get the real meaning of that deal.”
Kay: “There are people out there that can help you, Paul.”
O’Neill: “I thought I was going to get some advice here. Didn’t help!”
Kay: “We’re not medical professionals.”
O’Neill: “But I was just wondering, when he’s back there, like, is he flustered, trying to get ready to get out? We’ve got 35,000 people waiting for you to get your equipment on to get out there.”
Kay: “Now, did you have this dream while you played, or just since you’ve retired.”
O’Neill: “While I played, still to this day, every once in a while I have it. And it’s the same one over and over again.”
Clearly, O’Neill’s YES colleagues took the opportunity for some playful ribbing on the air. But it didn’t stop there.
Tuesday, at a charity golf outing for ESPN New York 98.7 FM, Kay was asked to comment on his television broadcast partner’s nocturnal admission.
“It’s frightening. It’s concerning,” Kay told ESPN.com, keeping a straight face. “I wish that I could help him, but I’m not at that level of psychiatric care. So we’re looking into some people that might be able to solve this problem for Paul.”
— with Jeff Skopin