Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Yankee Years: Paulie's Psyche and the Rocket's Firey Balls

Usually I don't start writing about books until I've finished reading them. Lucky for me, though, in light of the A-Rod circus, I am in the middle of Joe Torre and Tom Verducci's The Yankee Years.

While not a Yankee fan, the book is a must for any baseball fan. While it's touted as a Torre tell-all, Torre more steers the direction of the book, and thus far you see as much David Cone and Brian McNamee insight as you do the Yankee's former skipper's.

I've just read about the crumbling of the Yankee dynasty, as the squad that won 3 strait titles saw aging stalwarts like Paul O'Neil, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch and Cone pass and the team bring in the Giambis, Mondesis, and the like.

A-Rod's barely been mentioned at this point.

While this is the controversy that is selling the book, there are two items that had me laughing out loud and are alone worth the price of admission.

The first is anything related to O'Neill's "need to win."

Said [trainer Steve] Donahue "When we lost a game, I don't care if it was April or May, he'd come in the clubhouse and from halfway accross the room he'd be firing bats into his locker. We'd be back in the trainer's room, hear noise and know right away, 'Oh shit. We lost.' He'd be so pissed. No pitcher was ever any good, either. When the guy they made the movie about, the science teacher for Tampa Bay, Jim Morris, got him out, O'Neill went crazy. 'Who are they going to bring in next to get me out? A gym teacher? A plumber?'

He'd always say, 'That's it. I'm done. I can't hit.' And [bench coach Don] Zim[mer] would sit there and go, 'Hey, I got a buddy in Cincinnati who can get you a brick layer's job.'"
"I suck."

Cone also had a way of getting under O'Neill's craw, and taking pot shots at the Boss as well:

"I would do stuff just to get him [Steinbrenner] going," Cone said, "to make him feel a part of it. I liked having him around for that reason, because most people were too intimidated to say anything. I would always say, 'What was it like to coach Lenny Dawson? Tell O'Neill. C'mon. Tell him! Give him that pep talk like you gave Lenny!' I'd get him going. And O'Neill would hate it."

And he never let up...
"Cone was at it again with Steinbrenner just before the start of the 2000 World Series. O'Neill, famously intense and serious about his preparation, was walking by Cone in the redecorated clubhouse when the pitcher called out to Steinbrenner, "Time for a pep talk, George! O'Neill needs something. He doesn't look like he's ready to play to me." O'Neill shot a cold stare at Cone. Said Cone, "He's looking at me and he's tight as a drum. Be's bitter. He's pissed at me for trying to stir things up." Cone, of course, kept up the banter. "C'mon, George," he said, "Tell him! C'mon. We need O'Neill today, George. He doesn't look ready to me. Does he look ready to you?" ..."You," he [O'Neill] barked at Cone, "get the fuck out of the clubhouse! Right now!"
Then, there's everyone's favorite whipping boy, Roger Clemens, who frailty equaled his intensity. There was one revelation that floored me, however: the Rocket's pregame ritual...

There was so much to think about before throwing a picth. Clemens lost himself in his usual pregame preparation, which typically began with cranking the whirlpool to its hottest possible temperature. "He'd come out looking like a lobster," trainer Steve Donahue said. Donahue than [sic] would rub hot linement all over Clemens' body, "from his ankles to his wrists," Donahue said. Then Donahue would rub the hottest possible liniment on his testicles. "He'd start snorting like a bull," the trainer said. "That's when he was ready to pitch."
"How's the yam sack, Rog?"

Money quote.

I can put the book down now and feel satisfied.


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