I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of former Yankee Paul O’Neill’s memoir, Swing and a Hit: Nine Innings of What Baseball Taught Me. While I could never bring myself to root for the Yankees, I did enjoy watching O’Neill play during his time in New York. He was one of those player who, when watching, you could always tell that he cared about the game and about playing it well.
This memoir, published in May 2022, focuses a lot on O’Neill’s thoughts and perspectives on hitting. And he talks about everything hitting-related — about his stride, his leg kick, his approach at the plate early in the at-bat versus with two strikes, facing left-handed pitchers, hitting against the shift, his conversations with other players in the game about their own approaches to hitting, and so on.
I found myself glad that I had just read Ted Williams’s The Science of Hitting not too long ago, because this book by O’Neill felt very much like a complement to the Williams text. In fact, Paul O’Neill references The Science of Hitting multiple times in his own work. There was little doubt, as I made my way through Swing and a Hit, that O’Neill worshipped Ted Williams. He even goes so far as to a phone call he received from Williams as speaking with “the voice of God.”
The book wasn’t entirely about hitting, though, as Paul O’Neill also chronicles his life and baseball career. He discusses his father’s influence, which was substantial in his life and career. O’Neill also delves into his relationships and views on players and managers around him. He discusses what it was like to be a player with the Reds when the Pete Rose gambling case was making headlines, describes what it was like to play with Derek Jeter, and also what a terrifying experience it was to face Randy Johnson’s pitching.
All-in-all, while I enjoyed the book, I do feel it was a bit lacking on the actual memoir side of things. It felt more like a MasterClass on hitting a baseball — again, like a complement to Ted Williams’s book. It’s worth the read if you’re into that sort of perspective, but if you’re looking for something more personal, this book won’t quite get you there.