|Photo: Linda Cataffo/New York Daily News|
We all have favorite ballplayers. Athletes, for whatever reason, just hold a special place in our hearts. Maybe they were good enough to sign an autograph for you at the Stadium, or take a picture with you on a chance meeting at a restaurant. Perhaps your Mom or Dad cheered for this particular player and you followed suit. To you, this guy was like a part of your family. But it may be just the way the guy played the game. It was the way he/she respected the game, played it with passion and gave all he/she had every time they step between the lines.
|(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)|
Paul O’Neill came to the Bronx and truly help redefine the culture in the Yankee Universe. He played the way a Marine takes a beachhead. It was ALL about the team winning for number 21. Sure we share an Irish heritage. Yes, a quick fuse is also something we both carry in our tool kit. But Paulie’s attack is not only the best way to play the game of Baseball, it is also the best way to play the game of life. O’Neill truly made the Yankees who they were in the Dynasty years.
Jeter, Mo, Andy, Jorgie and the rest were HUGE parts of the machine, but Paul was the rev of the engine. He set the example. Paul was THE WARRIOR. I don’t think I could’ve coined it better than the Boss did in 1997.
I think one story sums up the “why” Paul O’Neill is forever my Yankee Hero. When I was living in LA I read a small piece in the Times on the fiery, Irish Yankee slugger. Here is the nuts and bolts of the story….
An ancestor of O’Neill’s was in a land dispute in Old Ireland with a rival family. There was a small island just off the coast of the Emerald Isle. O’Neill and his rival decided to row a race to the island. The one to reach land first would claim it for his family. And so they rowed. As the race drew to a close O’Neill saw that he would be beaten. Rather than take it on the chin, the passionate competitor drew his sword, cut off his hand and threw it to shore. He would touch land before his rival.