• How Do You Like Your String Cheese?

    Posted by on January 19th, 2007 · Comments (24)

    Mike at “Charlie Weis Ate My Babywrote this about Paul O’Neill today:

    I imagine that Red Sox fans enjoyed 2004 much like I enjoyed the 1998 Yankees. There were a lot of similarities between those two clubs, except the Yankees had a bit more class and a bunch more Paul O’Neill.

    Easily the most important New York Yankee of the last 25 years. More than Jeter, more than Rivera, more than Bernie. Number of Yankees World Series Championships since Big Paulie hung up the spikes after the 2001 season: zero.

    Sounds like Mike digs Paulie-O.

    Quick sidebar: Once I was at a Yankees game with my friend Lou in 2001. A guy sitting near us would scream out “String cheeeeese!” every time O’Neill came to the plate. We didn’t get it – at first. Finally, after hearing it a few times, Lou says to me “Oh, now I get it. ‘String Cheese,’ like in ‘Polly-O String Cheese‘ – ‘Paulie-Oh,’ get it?” (Stupid the things you remember, right? Anyway, that’s why this entry got the title that it did.)

    Back to the present day, a few months back, a met a woman who said she was a Yankees fan. We started talking about the recent teams and I brought up O’Neill. At that moment, she added “Oh, him – the cry-baby who would throw a fit every time he didn’t get his way.”

    Right there, I thought, even though she said she was a Yankees fan, that she knew as much about the Yankees as I do on quantum physics – which is nothing.

    You see, I too am a fan of O’Neill. As I shared back in November 2005, “I’ve always been drawn to the Munson-Mattingly-O’Neill types. I like guys who are leaders, work hard, play with passion, not afraid, etc.” in terms of having a favorite Yankee.

    However, regardless of my feelings, there’s always been that split on O’Neill – see Wikipedia for a good take on it:

    O’Neill is fondly remembered by Yankee fans as the “heart and soul” of the team’s dynasty in the 1990s. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner also labeled him as a “Warrior”. Naturally, however, to non Yankee fans and especially the Red Sox Nation, his antics were seen in a more negative light which led to being labeled a [sic] ‘whinger’, ‘spoiled brat’ and ‘crybaby’. In January 2007, Bill Simmons, an ESPN sportswriter and unrepentant Red Sox fan, referred to O’Neill as a “dick” in an ESPN online chat.

    So, thinking about it now, I do wonder if there are more people out there like that woman I once met? Do any Yankees fans out there feel that O’Neill was a “crybaby”? Or, are most of you like me and Mike (from “Charlie Weis Ate My Baby“)? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section here. Thanks in advance!

    Comments on How Do You Like Your String Cheese?

    1. redbug
      January 19th, 2007 | 12:30 pm

      I loved O’Neill’s passion. I loved that he expected to get a hit every time up. That he’d be ticked-off if he didn’t. I also appreciated that he never hurt himself (or anyone else) during his temper tandrums.

      But as I recall, late in his career, he cooled off because his wife asked him if he wanted his kids to follow his example of displaying his temper when he failed.

    2. Raf
      January 19th, 2007 | 12:31 pm

      If people think he was bad during the “dynasty” they should’ve seen him when he was first traded here…

      Me, I liked him as a player. I could’ve done without the histrionics, but that’s just me. You accept the package that comes along with the player. I appreciate him playing with a bad hammy in 96 as well as the last gasp 2b in 97. The running into the dugout with tears in his eyes during the 1999 WS after his father passed. The “Paul O’Neill” *clap, clap, clap* chant in 01, the I see him in my mind’s eye now, practicing his cuts in the OF…

      Pretty good legacy, and a very good chance that #21 will be retired in the future. Not bad for a guy traded here to platoon with Gerald Williams, eh?

    3. Raf
      January 19th, 2007 | 12:37 pm

      I also appreciated that he never hurt himself (or anyone else) during his temper tandrums.
      Yeah, Kevin Brown could’ve learned a thing or two from that…

      I seem to remember that he cooled off a bit after MSG showed a toilet that he destroyed with a bat. I remember seeing him running down the stairs after that AB.

    4. MJ
      January 19th, 2007 | 12:40 pm

      Paul O’Neill is, by far, my favorite Yankee of any era. I’m 31 years old so I never had the pleasure of seeing any of the old-timers (Babe, Lou, JoeD, Mick, Yogi, Whitey, etc). I was only 3 years old when Reggie, Thurman, Lou, Gator, Catfish, and Goose were running around in the Bronx Zoo. So, for my money, Paulie’s the Truest Yankee around. I love him more than Donnie, Bernie, Mo, Jeet, or anyone else. I love him for his passion, his leadership, and the fact that he never took a play off. He was the perfect player for those teams and I miss watching him hit in the 3-spot, behind Jeet and in front of Bernie.

      Disclaimer: I don’t get into the “True Yankee” stuff but if ever there was such a thing, #21’s it for me. His is the only t-shirt I wear to ballgames, and I’ve been wearing that shirt to every game since 1995.

    5. bfriley76
      January 19th, 2007 | 12:44 pm

      I (luckily) married into a family of people who are as big Yankees fans as I am. My Brother-in-Law and Father-in-Law both Love Paulie…as much as I do. My Mother-in-Law Hates him…and it’s been something we constantly argue about (in good fun mind you). It’s actually gotten to the point that when she received and autographed picture of Paulie, she decided to hang it in her garage, which for her is a step above throwing it out. She refused to toss it, since it’s Yankee related, but she pays it little mind. It kills me seeing it there every time I visit, since it would hold a place of honor on the Yankee wall in my house.

      Maybe it has to do with how much you immerse yourself in your Yankee fandom. Now, this doesn’t cover all cases, but a lot of people that I know that live and die with the Yankees really loved Paulie, not all of them but a lot. The more casual Yankee fan, in most cases, has seemed more likely to fall under the “hate Paulie” category.

    6. DFLNJ
      January 19th, 2007 | 1:31 pm

      Both myself and the rest of my Yankee diehard family speak of O’Neill only in hushed tones. I own only two Yankees T-shirts, #42 and #21. I wore #21 when I played baseball in high school. I’m much too young to remember Munson and only have hazy memories of Mattingly’s peak years, but O’Neill will always be my favorite player.

      That being said, every non-Yankee fan I know hates him. It’s pretty much unanimous.

    7. antone
      January 19th, 2007 | 1:36 pm

      To me a crybaby is someone who would cry to the umpires or the other team or other players on his team..but everything O’Neill did was towards himself and I don’t think you can bash him for that. That is how he chose to deal with his frustrations and aslong as he’s not hurting anyone else it shouldn’t be a problem. You never heard O’Neill whining about other players or umpires, unlike that windbag Schilling who is a better example of a crybaby since he was breaking Questec cameras because he couldn’t get the stike calls he wanted.

    8. Mikos
      January 19th, 2007 | 2:03 pm

      O’Neill to me is, as you desribed Steve, cut from the same mold as Munson, Mattingly, Jeter. Hard nosed player, passionate, team first guy and a leader. I think O’Neill was unfairly characterized as a “baby” due to his reactions to grounding out on 3-1, missing a perfect wheelhouse pitch, and getting rooked on a strike call.

      While the latter is a beef with the umps, O’Neill usually blew up when HE had done something he wasn’t pleased with. He was overly hard on himself and I, for one, loved it. He expects great things from himself and punched the water cooler when he didn’t deliver. I never saw him trash a water cooler when a teammate popped up with 2 on and 2 out, nor saw him bark when one made a key error.

      If A-Rod acted like O’Neill did, I’d have a helluva lot more respect for him. O’Neill gave you the impression he was giving his best on EVERY play, EVERY at-bat.

      Give me 25 players with his attitude and you’ll win a lot of championships.

      Great site Steve.

    9. January 19th, 2007 | 2:19 pm


    10. Don
      January 19th, 2007 | 2:26 pm

      I’ve posted this before, we could use an O’Neill type player these days.

    11. rbj
      January 19th, 2007 | 3:23 pm

      Count me in the Paul O’Neill fan club. Always played hard. Never heard him gripe.

    12. SteveB
      January 19th, 2007 | 3:24 pm

      How was Sheffield not an “O’Neill type player?”

    13. January 19th, 2007 | 3:27 pm

      Did O’Neill ever bitch about his contract or about not getting proper respect while he was on the Yankees?

    14. SteveB
      January 19th, 2007 | 3:34 pm

      No, but I fail to see why that matters. Sheff was tempermental, O’Neill was tempermental.

      Sheff was a ridiculous hitter, who played with a shoulder muscle that was detaching from the bone. And from a production standpoint, Sheff put up EqAs of .318, and .318 in ’04 and ’05. O’Neill’s highest EqA from ’96-01 was .320. So I mean, in terms of putting a winning team on the field, I don’t see a lot of difference between having Sheff or having Paulie.

      Plus, let’s be real here, the Yanks didn’t win 4 WS titles because of Paul O’Neill. Yes he contributed, but they won because they had better pitching back then than they have in recent years.

    15. Raf
      January 19th, 2007 | 3:36 pm

      Did O’Neill ever bitch about his contract or about not getting proper respect while he was on the Yankees?
      No, because O’Neill got it.

      Sheffield played with a bum shoulder, tried 1b towards the end of the season, and offered to play 3b when Boone blew out his knee.

    16. January 19th, 2007 | 3:50 pm

      ~~~they won because they had better pitching back then than they have in recent years. ~~~

      I concur with that 100%

      But, the question here was not – did they win because of Paul? It was, was he a cry-baby or not?

    17. January 19th, 2007 | 3:55 pm

      ~~~No, because O’Neill got it.~~~

      And, Sheff did not? Remember when Torre pulled O’Neill out of the batter’s box (in Seattle?) to pinch-hit for him, after he already was at the plate. Did anything like that ever happen to Sheff when he was with the Yankees?

    18. Raf
      January 19th, 2007 | 3:59 pm

      Was he a cry-baby? Depends if you’re a Red Sox fan or not 🙂

      But as SteveB said, you have two players who are tempermental, which manifested itself in different ways. Kevin Brown was tempermental too, as was David Wells.

    19. Raf
      January 19th, 2007 | 4:12 pm

      Remember when Torre pulled O’Neill out of the batter’s box (in Seattle?) to pinch-hit for him, after he already was at the plate. Did anything like that ever happen to Sheff when he was with the Yankees?
      No; refresh my memory.

      On the surface, I don’t find that disrespectful. Does benching Sheffield in game 4 count? I didn’t find that disrespectful either…

    20. January 19th, 2007 | 4:36 pm

      ~~~No; refresh my memory. ~~~

      It was Game 5 of the 2000 ALCS. Torre yanked Paul out of the batter’s box and sent up Glenallen Hill as a pinch hitter. Those who saw and will probably say O’Neill looked like a balloon that had been popped when it happended.

    21. Raf
      January 19th, 2007 | 4:56 pm

      jeez, where was I when that happened?

    22. January 19th, 2007 | 5:09 pm

      Afterwards, even Torre said it was a terrible thing to do. O’Neill did not react at all with the media. Think Sheff would have taken that without a whimper?

    23. Bob R.
      January 19th, 2007 | 10:11 pm

      First, comments such as the Yankees have won no championships since O’Neill left are silly. They also have not won since Brosius, Knoblauch and Justice left, or for that matter Todd Greene, Clay Bellinger, Keisler or Witasek as well as plenty of other players.

      That said, I liked O’Neill very much and never considered him a whiner at all. He simply was not satisfied if he did poorly and exhibited his feelings, but I never remember him blaming anyone. I do not recall him claiming the umpires were unfair or that other players were playing dirty or any other such nonsense. On the contrary, he took responsibility for his own failures and praised his teammates rather than accept acclaim himself when the team did well. Did he ever attack his manager or teammates? Not that I remember. A terrific player and a vital part of the Yankee success.

    24. singledd
      January 19th, 2007 | 11:19 pm

      I would find it hard to believe there are any ‘true’ Yankee FANS that didn’t love Paulie. His passion and team first attitude set the table for the entire team. Mick, Munson, Murcer, Donny where all farm products, which O’Neil wasn’t, but they were all special players and impossible to replace. I miss Paulie.

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