Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Ian O'Connor
Q: Why did you feel compelled to write a biography of Derek Jeter?
A: As I say in the introduction to The Captain, the answer is found in my son’s closet, a mini-warehouse of youth baseball jerseys graced by the frayed number 2. With Derek Jeter nearing the end of his iconic career, not to mention a milestone (3,000 hits) no New York Yankee has reached, I thought it was the right time to do a head-to-toe examination of Jeter’s mass appeal. He is the DiMaggio of his time, a beloved but distant figure. My goal was to humanize Jeter. I wanted to paint a public portrait of a private man while celebrating his dignified approach and explaining why his number 2 is number 1 in the closets of kids everywhere. Q:
How did you gather all the material in The Captain
A: I’ve covered Jeter’s entire career as a newspaper and Internet columnist in the New York market, so I had a strong base of firsthand observations and knowledge and one-on-one and group interviews with Jeter to work with. I also conducted more than 200 interviews exclusively for this book, including conversations with Jeter and past and present teammates, coaches, friends, opponents, teachers, scouts, executives, admirers, and detractors. (I define his detractors as admirers willing to discuss the shortstop’s human flaws.)
Q: What is your favorite anecdote in the book from Jeter’s early years as a Yankee?
A: One of my favorites involves the period before Derek was drafted. As a child he started telling his parents and others he would someday play shortstop for the New York Yankees, and as a teenager he predicted to some that he would marry Mariah Carey (well, he almost went 2 for 2). But the surreal twists and turns of the draft of ’92, when Jeter dropped into the Yankees’ lap as the sixth overall pick, lends credence to the notion he was meant to be a Yank. Houston rejected the advice of its lead Jeter scout, a former Hall of Fame pitcher for Detroit named Hal Newhouser, who resigned because the Astros didn’t pick Derek at number 1 (they took college star Phil Nevin instead). Cincinnati scouting director Julian Mock rejected the advice of his own people and decided in the middle of a draft-day jog to select a college outfielder from central Florida (Chad Mottola) instead of the high school shortstop from Kalamazoo (Jeter) at number 5. To this day, Derek swears he was so convinced he was going in the top five of the draft, he didn’t even know that his dream team, the Yankees, were picking sixth. He knows now... I also enjoyed discovering how Cal Ripken Jr.’s decision to shake a young boy’s hand in 1993 ultimately put twelve-year-old Jeffrey Maier in the Yankee Stadium stands in 1996, when Maier deflected Derek Jeter’s home-run ball into American League Championship Series lore and helped end Baltimore’s season and Ripken’s indelible reign at short.
Q: Jeter is often portrayed as the perfect athlete. Is he perfect?
A: Jeter is about as close to perfect as a superstar athlete can get, but no, he is not an infallible player or person. As a product of parents who raised him on the strict terms of behavioral contracts he was compelled to sign, Jeter never put himself or his team in an embarrassing position. But he’s been overly sensitive to criticism, he’s terrible at forgiving and forgetting those he believes have slighted him, and at times he could have been a better captain to Alex Rodriguez, who craved Jeter’s approval in his early seasons as a Yankee. Jeter didn’t give it.
"Jeter is the prince, the good son, the tireless worker. O’Connor uses baseball lore and the tropes and rhythms of folktales to limn Jeter’s family life and early career...essential for Yankees fans." — Booklist "O’Connor peppers the bio with enough hidden gems about the notoriously private ballplayer to make this the most thorough and intriguing work on Jeter so far. And O’Connor’s ability to reconcile Jeter the man with Jeter the ballplayer means that even Red Sox fans may enjoy this bio." -- Publishers Weekly "The most complete account yet of this signal player's life and career . . . Insightful about Jeter's minor league days and touching on his personal life, The Captain tantalizes with predictions about possible position changes and the length of Jeter's career. An excellent selection for those interested in baseball generally and in pinstripes particularly." — Library Journal "Long after Derek Jeter is inducted into the Hall of Fame, Ian O’Connor’s work will be viewed as the definitive biography of the captain. Jeter has always managed to keep it simple, but as O’Connor shows, the shortstop is a complicated superstar." — Buster Olney, author of How Lucky You Can Be and The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty "Ian O’Connor is an ideal biographer for Derek Jeter. Ian is the same kind of thorough pro." — Tom Callahan, best-selling author of Johnny U
"Derek Jeter is undoubtedly the most talked about, argued about, cheered, booed and ultimately respected baseball player of his generation. And as public a figure as he has been, he is in many ways the least known. That changes now as Ian O’Connor, one of the best sportswriters anywhere, goes deep and does what no one has quite been able to do: tell us a bit about who Derek Jeter really is." — Joe Posnanski, author of The Machine
"For years we’ve been telling young ballplayers to play and behave like Derek Jeter. Now we can tell them to read Ian O’Connor's The Captain. Finally, we have an inside look at the worthy successor to Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle." — Dan Shaughnessy, author of Fenway and Senior Year