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Me and My Dad: A Baseball Memoir

Me and My Dad: A Baseball Memoir

by Paul O'Neill

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Paul O'Neill was the undisputed heart and soul of the four-time World Series-winning New York Yankees from 1993 to 2001. O'Neill epitomized the team's motto of hard work and good sportsmanship, traits instilled in him by his friend, confidant, lifelong model, and biggest fan: his dad, Chick O'Neill.

In Me and My Dad, O'Neill writes from the heart


Paul O'Neill was the undisputed heart and soul of the four-time World Series-winning New York Yankees from 1993 to 2001. O'Neill epitomized the team's motto of hard work and good sportsmanship, traits instilled in him by his friend, confidant, lifelong model, and biggest fan: his dad, Chick O'Neill.

In Me and My Dad, O'Neill writes from the heart about the man who inspired in him a love for the game and a determination to always play his best. O'Neill remembers the highlights of his own amazing career: the Cincinnati Reds calling him up to the majors, his first World Series, being traded to the Yankees -- and taking part in their recent championship wins. He also reflects on his father's untimely death during the 1999 World Series and on the farewell tribute his fans gave him during his last game in Yankee Stadium.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
The book demonstrates a profound lesson for anyone about what a child can accomplish with a parent's steadfast love. — Andrea Cooper
Publishers Weekly
As every Yankee fan knows, the New York right fielder was devoted to his father, Chick, who he describes as "my childhood hero, my pal, and my mentor." It was Chick who imbued his son, the youngest of six children, with the love of all sports, particularly baseball. It was also his father's hard work, O'Neill writes in this sentimental memoir, that created an idyllic childhood for the youngest O'Neill, when summers in Columbus, Ohio, were filled with baseball games coached by his father and where winter brought hockey games on a homemade ice rink in the family backyard. Life for the youngest O'Neill was so ideal that he was drafted by his favorite team, the nearby Cincinnati Reds, and he married his childhood sweetheart, Nevalee. Then in 1993 he was traded to the Yankees; as the heart and soul of the team during his nine years in New York, O'Neill won four World Series and became a fan favorite. O'Neill's most bittersweet series was in 1999, when his father was critically ill and died the day before the final game, and O'Neill's memories of this period are particularly moving. This autobiography is more about relationships than events, and entire years in early in O'Neill's career are summed up in a sentence or two. Unlike his former teammate David Wells, this does not have a bad word to say about anyone (including Wells) or anything connected to baseball. While his fans may have expected some fireworks from the fiery Yankee, O'Neill proves himself to be a dedicated player devoted to his family and baseball. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
O'Neill capped eight years with the Cincinnati Reds by starring from 1993 to 2001 as right fielder for the Yankees. In an emotional story dedicated to his late father, Charles (Chick) O'Neill, who died in 1999, Paul relates how his Dad shaped his life and career-coaching, critiquing, and encouraging this intense, hard-driving ballplayer. He folds into the account his impressions of managers, fellow players, and life in the major leagues and the World Series. With principal appeal to libraries around New York and in Ohio, this father-and-son story may also fit in YA collections.-Morey Berger, St. Joseph's Hopital Lib., Tucson, AZ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hard-driving Yankee outfielder O'Neill melds a sweet, plainspoken tribute to his father. No wonder he played with such energy, enthusiasm, and savvy: the third generation of his family to enter professional ball, O'Neill was raised in the Church of Baseball. For his father, Chick, it "was less a game than a way of life, a set of rules and philosophies, challenges and opportunities that provided order in the universe." When O'Neill writes that baseball embodies "hard work, sacrifice, courage, devotion to family and nation, overcoming hardship, reaching for dreams," he's not just talking through his hat, but ticking off attributes he drew upon to make his career. His father worked to instill in O'Neill, a notoriously emotional player known for flinging his helmet or working over water coolers after missed opportunities in the batter's box, the understanding that sportsmanship was as important as great play, fun was the name of the game, and optimism would trump a lousy at-bat. This attitude didn't come easy, but his father was always there for him, encouraging and getting him back in line all the way through O'Neill's apprenticeship in the minors, his fine years with the Cincinnati Reds, and his triumphs as a Yankee. (Chick passed away during the 1999 World Series.) O'Neill covers his many career highlights, including those searing line drives, World Series by the peck, and three perfect games. He also makes intelligent comments on salaries and the value of fans, as well as nothing-but-blue-skies tributes to his teammates. Fans will enjoy getting a peek into the life and quirks of this formerly media-shy player. As much an antidote to David Wells trash talk as we’re likely to get.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt

Me and My Dad

A Baseball Memoir
By O'Neill, Paul


ISBN: 0060595795

Chapter One

Family Man

Being the youngest of the six O'Neill children ultimately turned out to be one of the luckiest things that ever happened in my baseball career.

But as I was growing up, it was often a double-edged sword, in more ways than one. When it came to learning about family history, being last in line meant I got mostly hand-me-downs, bits and pieces of stories Dad might tell in his offhanded, by-the-way manner, and other, longer versions filtered through my older siblings who, naturally, knew more than I did about everything.

But what I did figure out at a very young age was that we had the potential to become a third generation of professional baseball players that had started with Dad's father, Art O'Neill, who played in the minor leagues in the early 1900s. Grandpa Art's father, great-grandfather John O'Neill, was a Nebraska homesteader who had married Mary Clemens, possibly a cousin to Samuel Clemens, alias Mark Twain. My mother, guardian and patron saint of the part of our education that wasn't about sports, must have been glad that this literary influence in our ancestry on Dad's side was as much in our blood as baseball was. Later that turned out to be the case, when two out of the six of us -- Molly and Robert -- took up the pen professionally. In the meantime our sports genes were of much more interest to me.

Grandpa Art, born in the late 1800s, grew up in a time when professional baseball was in its infancy. Though the National League had been around since the 1870s, the American League was formed only in 1901; the general public was just beginning to catch on. For a young man like Art O'Neill, working hard, long hours as a foreman in charge of the Omaha Grain Elevator in South Ravenna, playing ball could only be an amateur interest -- squeezed into whatever little time was left over in the workweek. But fate intervened when the grain elevator closed for the harvest in 1909, and my grandfather, with a growing family to support, was forced to find a money-paying job for which he was qualified. As it so happened, he was a darn good baseball player and within no time he was making headlines in the April 12, 1909, edition of the Ravenna Times, which reported that "Art O'Neill signed for seventy-five dollars a month to play baseball out in Billings, Montana."

Grandpa Art's stint in the minors coincided with a critical change in baseball that took place in 1911, when the adoption of a ball that had a cork center dramatically increased the potential for high-flying hits and home runs. Before that time the so-called dead ball first used in the game limited the frequency of home runs, forcing batters to rely on mental strategy, bunts, and base stealing. With the more aerodynamic ball, a whole new realm of competition opened up, and crowds began flocking to ballparks as never before.

This was the climate in which Art O'Neill honed his skills, eventually dropping out of the minors and going into the dairy business in Nebraska, where his brood of good Irish stock grew to eight children: Sham, Lucy, Peg, Jack, Russ, Pat, my dad Charles "Chick" (born March 18, 1920), and Clark. All in all, six sons and two daughters. In spite of the brutal winters and blistering summers, seasons that could wipe out the farm family's livelihood, Dad grew up fearless, with a true pioneer mentality, knowing that his father would somehow manage to do what he had to do in order for them to survive and not starve. They bartered, borrowed, and kept the faith, and everyone pitched in. Dad went to work in the corn fields on his family's dairy farm at an early age, the sunburn marks left by the straps of his overalls a permanent mark of pride.

Life was tough, but -- at least in the warmer months -- the baseball that Dad learned from Grandpa Art provided an escape, something to take the edge off. Baseball soothed the soul, lit the imagination, and provided him with a rhyme and reason to the hard routine of life. It was community and connection, with his family and friends coming together to play games, but it also let him commune with himselftesting the limits of his skills, pushing himself to be better than just good. He strove for greatness, then as later, inciting the rest of us to follow in that tradition.

In the off-seasons, Dad recalled that the entertainment revolved around Friday-night dances, a main course that was a prelude to the dessert -- a fistfight out back after one so-and-so insulted the honor of some other so-and-so. From what I could tell as a young boy listening to his stories, the dancing and mingling with the opposite sex wouldn't be complete without somebody later getting in a good shot or two of a fist of five.

Dad led me to understand that whaling on somebody --- like one of my brothers, for instance -- wasn't to be encouraged. But back in the "old times," folks in Nebraska wore their hearts on their sleeves, and when it came to family pride, Grandpa Art had passed down the idea that if the O'Neill name was challenged, you stuck up for it. Besides, they'd make up the next day, apologize, and be friends again. Dad convinced me that physical fighting was only appropriate when family dignity was in question. And, fortunately, because most of the arguments occurred between O'Neills -- having to do with who was cheating in one sport or another -- I was mostly kept out of any serious brawling.

During Dad's growing-up years, baseball was in its glory days of the Roaring Twenties, when Babe Ruth, the most amazing hitter the country had ever seen, and his New York Yankees revolutionized the sport ...


Excerpted from Me and My Dad by O'Neill, Paul Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Paul O'Neill was a right fielder for the New York Yankees. A frequent announcer and commentator on the YES Network, he lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Burton Rocks is the author of three previous sports-related books. He lives in Stony Brook, New York.

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