Review: ‘Swing and a Hit’ for diehard Yankees fans only

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This cover image released by Grand Central Publishing shows “Swing and a Hit: Nine Innings of What Baseball Taught Me” by Paul O’Neill. (Grand Central Publishing via AP)

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“Swing and a Hit” by Paul O’Neill with Jack Curry (Grand Central Publishing)

To date, nearly every starter in the New York Yankees dynasty who has won four World Series titles in six years (1996, 1998-2000) has written a memoir. Paul O’Neill, the nice single left-hander who, during his 17-year major league career in Cincinnati and New York, hit 2,107 hits, now has two.

“Me and My Dad” (2003) tells how O’Neill’s father nurtured his love of the game. “Swing and a Hit” isn’t as heavy on the biography, but like a well-rehearsed baseball swing, it repeats itself again and again.

“My best and most comfortable approach was to swing so that I connected with the top half of the baseball, not the bottom half, and not try to swing under the baseball,” writes- there on page three. He repeats this fact countless times in the next 239 pages, so that in the end there is no doubt what he thinks of the current generation of power hitters who often hit or hit a shot. circuit.

As a broadcaster on the Yankees-owned Regional Sports Network (YES), he’s smart enough not to criticize current players, but it’s obvious he finds all those uppercut swings if not offensive, at least distasteful. Writing of former manager Lou Piniella’s criticism that he “didn’t have the temper to be a 40 homer hitter”, O’Neill said: “To even dream of hitting 40 homers, my average would have to suffer and that would have made me ballistic.

Ah, that temper of O’Neill. Famous for smashing water coolers and mumbling in right field after an at-bat didn’t go his way, O’Neill shares a remarkable story from a random game against the Montreal Expos on June 5, 2000. After a swing he fouled on his right foot dribbled the ball along the first base line, O’Neill stayed in the batter’s box while umpire Rich Rieker l called it a fair ball and first ruled it out. O’Neill argued on the court, but that was before the replay and the call stood. So what’s an ultra-competitive guy to do? As a result of the ball fouling on his foot, one of O’Neill’s fingernails eventually cracked and fell off and he had it delivered in an envelope to the Yankee Stadium umpires room. “I have no idea if they ever received the envelope,” O’Neill wrote.

Subtitled “Nine Innings of What Baseball Taught Me”, the book doesn’t really give nine separate lessons, although there are nine chapters and a bonus feature called “Extra Innings”. There are hitting tips throughout and some bromides for young players at the end like “Be yourself”, “Have a plan” and, ahem, “Hit Line Drives”. Instead, the chapters are a choppy mix of career highlights and O’Neill’s take on various baseball legends (Pete Rose, Ted Williams and Yankees teammates Derek Jeter, to name a few). only a few).

The best parts of the book are the behind-the-scenes stories, but there aren’t enough of them. Here’s O’Neill writing about the inside batting cage under the right-field stands of the old Yankee Stadium, where he and former Yankees captain Don Mattingly would practice their swings: “The blue paint seemed to be peeling off the walls of this room. a little more each day. There were cracks in the ceiling… But for me and Cap, this modest, shabby place was our sanctuary.

Ultimately, Yankees fans who collect books written by anyone associated with the team’s last dynasty will likely buy this one. But it’s hard to imagine anyone who isn’t a die-hard fan of the legendary Bronx team dropping $29 on the hardcover.

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