The following article was originally written for, and published at, www.ultimatesportstalk.com. From a personal standpoint, I was very happy a week ago when I heard that Paul O'Neill is one of this year's CCBL Hall of Fame inductees.
In some areas though, there seems to be some confusion over which Paul O'Neill has received this honor! More on that later...
This Paul O'Neill is a friend of mine. He graduated from Framingham South HS one year after me and he still lives in Framingham. O'Neill was a star athlete in three sports at South High. He quarterbacked the football team, was a standout defenseman on a championship winning hockey team, and he was a talented pitcher/infielder for the Flyers baseball team.
Paul attended Boston College where he played hockey and baseball for the Eagles before transferring to Texas Wesleyan where he concentrated on baseball.
In 1976, O'Neill was drafted by San Diego in the fourth round with the 77th overall pick. He spent three minor league seasons in the Padres, Reds and Orioles organizations where he compiled a .219 avg. with 29 HR and 96 RBI. After returning to Framingham, Paul had a very successful run as the coach of the Flyers hockey team. He now works in business with his brother, Steve.
Now, why is there any confusion surrounding O'Neill's pending induction into the Cape League Hall of Fame? Well, there are a couple reasons starting with the fact that there was an outfielder who shares the same name and who had a very good career with Cincinnati and the New York Yankees. That is the Paul O'Neill who won one American League batting title, made five All Star game appearances, and played in six World Series.
I did not hear this, but Steve shared the story of how, during the Boston Red Sox game last Sunday afternoon, Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione made mention of the eight new CCBL Hall of Famers and he referred to O'Neill as the former star rightfielder of the Yankees. Oops.
Castiglione isn't the only one who is confused. If you check Todd Cunningham's 2010 player bio on the Jacksonville State Univ. website, you will find that the school mentions Cunningham's accomplishment of leading the Cape League in batting in 2009. The bio goes on to note that this puts Cunningham in pretty exclusive company with the likes of Thurman Munson, Jason Varitek, Chuck Knoblauch, Paul O'Neill and Pete Rose as players who have lead the Cape Cod League in batting before going on to have stellar major league careers.
The former major league outfielder did not play college baseball and obviously did not play in the CCBL. As for the majors all-time hits leader..... well, contrary to what the good folks at Jacksonville State have reported, Pete Rose did not play in the Cape League either but what a good story that could have been! Here is the link to the JSU website: http://www.jsugamecocksports.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=635 The "Pete Rose" they are referring to is actually Pete Ross, an outfielder from Michigan, who won the CCBL batting crown in 1974 while playing for Yarmouth.
Although a fan favorite, the Yankees outfielder had a reputation of being a bit surly with the media. I don't know that O'Neill, but I can tell you that the O'Neill who I know is a gentleman and all-around good guy. I'm very happy for him and this well-deserved honor. It's also pretty cool to think that the little high school on Flagg Drive has produced two Cape League Hall of Famers. When November rolls around, O'Neill will join Lou Merloni as the second Framingham South alum to enter the Hall.
The right Paul O'Neill received the phone call telling him of his election to the Hall. Let's hope that the invitation to the induction ceremony is sent to the correct address. It could be a bit awkward if both Paul O'Neill's end up at the Chatham Bars Inn in November!