The 92-year-old chairman of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., offers some diamond thoughts.
SI: You charmed America a decade ago in Ken Burns's Baseball. What was it like becoming a TV star at 82?
O'Neil: They say I looked pretty good, didn't they? I tell you, I'm having a good time.
SI: Has the steroids scandal tarnished your love of baseball?
O'Neil: Not at all. I think a lot of the guys are not using the steroids. But if they are, they should do something about it. Not only for baseball but also for the guys' health, because it's going to kill them off very young. Ever since there's been sports, people have been doing little things to boost 'em up. In my era some of the guys wanted a little sip. They wouldn't get drunk, but they wanted a little boost.
SI: Who was the best player you ever played against?
O'Neil: Oscar Charleston. He played with the Indianapolis ABCs [during a career that lasted from 1915 until 1941]. The best major league baseball player I've seen was Willie Mays, but the best baseball player was Oscar Charleston. He could hit you 50 home runs and steal you 100 bases.
SI: How good was Satchel Paige?
O'Neil: Satchel Paige was better than good. In Washington, before they had all those speed guns in the ballpark, the government had a contraption there that registered speed. They clocked Satchel at 100 miles per hour. He said to me, "You know what, Nancy"—which is what he called me—"I didn't know they were timing me, because I could throw harder than that." That sucker was just great!
SI: Is George Steinbrenner good for baseball?