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Heavy heart

O'Neill plays in Game 4 following father's death

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Posted: Thursday October 28, 1999 01:46 AM

  Paul O'Neill weeps as he walks off the field at Yankee Stadium. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- In the middle of a joyous World Series celebration on the field, Paul O'Neill hugged his manager and wept.

O'Neill's father had died earlier Wednesday after a long struggle with heart problems, and Joe Torre had a special message for his right fielder.

"Your dad got to watch this one," Torre told O'Neill.

Then, O'Neill jogged off the field, wiping his eyes as he entered the dugout, no longer able to control his emotions.

"It obviously came out at the end," O'Neill said.

He broke down again in the clubhouse.

"I'm proud to be here, I'm proud to be part of this team ... but believe me, I lost someone special," he said, his voice cracking.

O'Neill was in the lineup in his usual spot in Game 4 against the Atlanta Braves, batting third and playing right field.

"When he showed up, I assumed he was going to play," Torre said before the Yankees beat the Braves 4-1 to sweep the Series. "That's why he was here. This can keep his mind off the grieving for a couple of hours.

"Paulie does what he does. As George Steinbrenner likes to say, he's a warrior. He's here even though it is tough to concentrate."

Charles O'Neill, 79, died at a New York hospital about three hours after the Yankees beat the Braves 6-5 in 10 innings in Game 3.

The elder O'Neill had come to New York from his Ohio home earlier this month for treatment. His son left the team for a day in June when his father underwent heart surgery.

"We played with heavy hearts," said winning pitcher Roger Clemens. "I don't know if I could've done what Paul O'Neill did."

Torre said O'Neill was not surprised by his father's death "because he had been in tough shape. It's a very sorrowful time for him."

O'Neill, who did not want to talk about his father's death before the game, stretched and took batting practice with his teammates on the field. He went 0-for-3 in the game.

"He understood that his father wanted him to go out there," said Joe Girardi, who is a close friend of O'Neill's.

O'Neill is the third Yankee whose father has died in the past two months. Scott Brosius' father died of colon cancer on Sept. 12. Luis Sojo missed the first two games of the Series after his father died Oct. 21.

"I don't know how he did it in a game like this," Brosius said. "It took a lot of strength. I know how difficult it is to do that."

Torre knew as well.

"When you play this game you try to eliminate the highs and lows," he said. "That has been difficult. There is nothing higher than playing in the World Series and nothing lower than mourning the loss of a family member. There has been a lot of this going on. We just have to fight through it."


 
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