The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter

The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter

By:  Ian O'Connor

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“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 sports writers 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“Deftly told.”—Washington PostIn The Captain, Ian O’Connor draws on unique access to Derek Jeter and more than 200 new interviews to reveal how a biracial kid from Michigan became New York’s most beloved sports figure and the face of the steroid-free athlete. O’Connor takes us behind the scenes of a legendary baseball life, from Jeter’s early struggles in the minor leagues, when homesickness and errors threatened a stillborn career, to the heady days of Yankee superiority and nightlife, to the battles with former best friend A-Rod. All along the way, Jeter has made his Hall-of-Fame destiny look easy. But behind that leadership and hero’s grace there are hidden struggles and complexities that have never been explored, until now.

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  • Format: Paperback

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547747606

  • ISBN-10: 0547747608

  • Pages: 448

  • Price: $16.99

  • Publication Date: 04/03/2012

  • Carton Quantity: 24

Ian O'Connor

Ian O'Connor

IAN O'CONNOR is a senior writer at, a nationally-acclaimed columnist, and the author of three previous books, including the New York Times bestsellers Arnie & Jack and The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter. He has finished in first place in over a dozen national writing contests.
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  • reviews

    "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

  • excerpts


    Like all good stories about a prince, this one starts in a castle.

     Derek Sanderson Jeter spent his boyhood summers around the

    Tiedemann castle of Greenwood Lake, a home near the New York/

    New Jersey border maintained by the Tiedemann family of Jersey City

    and defined by its medieval-looking tower and rooftop battlements.

     In the 1950s, the Tiedemanns started rebuilding the burned-out

    castle with the help of their adopted son, William “Sonny” Connors,

    who did his talking with a hammer the same way Charles “Sonny” Liston

    did his talking with his fists.

     More than a quarter century later, Connors, a maintenance worker

    at a Catholic church, would preach the virtues of an honest day’s work

    to his grandson, who was enlisted as Connors’s unpaid assistant when

    he wasn’t playing with the Tiedemann grandchildren around the lake.

     Derek Jeter was forever carrying his baseball glove, forever looking

    for a game. His grandfather was not an enthusiastic sports fan, but as

    much as anyone Connors showed the boy the necessity of running out

    every single one of life’s ground balls.

     Connors was a shy and earnest handyman who had lost his parents

    to illness when he was young, and who had honed his workshop skills

    under John Tiedemann’s careful watch. Tiedemann and his wife, Julia,

    raised Sonny along with twelve children of their own, sparing him a

    teenager’s life as a ward of the state.

     Tiedemann was a worthy role model for Sonny. He had left school in

    the sixth grade to work in a Jersey City foundry and help his widowed

    mother pay the bills. At thirteen, Tiedemann already was operating a

    small electrical business of his own.

     In the wake of the Great Depression he landed a job inside St. Michael’s

    Church, where Tiedemann did everything for Monsignor LeRoy

    McWilliams, even built him a parish gym. When Msgr. McWilliams

    did not have the money to cover the scaffolding needed to paint St. Michael’s,

    Tiedemann invented a jeep-mounted boom that could elevate

    a man to the highest reaches of the ceiling. He ultimately got into the

    business of painting and decorating church walls.

     Around the same time, in the mid-fifties, Tiedemann was overseeing

    work on a 2.7-acre Greenwood Lake, New York, lot he had purchased

    for $15,000. His main objective was the restoration of a German-style

    castle that had been gutted by fire more than a decade earlier.

    Tiedemann’s labor force amounted to his eleven sons, including

    his ace plumber, roofer, carpenter, and electrician from St. Michael’s

    — Sonny Connors.

     “Sonny was a Tiedemann,” said one of the patriarch’s own, George.

    “We all counted him as one of our brothers.”

     And every weekend, year after year after year, this band of Jersey

    City brothers gathered to breathe new life into the dark slate-tiled castle,

    an Old World hideaway originally built by a New York City dentist

    in 1903. The Tiedemann boys started by digging out the ashes and

    removing the trees that had grown inside the structure.

     They did this for their father, the self-made man the old St. Michael’s

    pastor liked to call “the Michelangelo of the tool chest.” The castle was

    John Tiedemann’s dream house, and the boys helped him build additional

    homes on the property so some of his thirteen children and

    fifty-four grandchildren could live there.

     “We weren’t a huggy, kissy type of family,” George said. “We weren’t

    the Waltons. But the love was there, and it didn’t have to manifest itself

    more than it did.”

     John Tiedemann was a tough and simple man who liked to fish,

    watch boxing, and move the earth with his callused hands. Long before

    he poured himself into the Greenwood Lake project, Tiedemann was

    proud of being the first resident on his Jersey City block, 7th Street, to

    own a television set. He enjoyed having his friends over to take in the

    Friday night fights.

     He finally made some real money with his church improvement

    business and later bought himself a couple of Rolls-Royces to park outside

    his renovated castle. But Tiedemann was a laborer at heart, and he

    had taught his eleven sons all the necessary trades.

     As it turned out, none of the boys could match the father as a craftsman.

    None but Sonny, the one Tiedemann who did not share Tiedemann’s


     For years Sonny was John’s most reliable aide, at least when he

    was not working his full-time job as head of maintenance at Queen

    of Peace in North Arlington, New Jersey, an hour’s commute from the

    castle. Sonny would drive through heavy snowstorms in the middle of

    the night to clean the Queen of Peace parking lots by 4:00 a.m. He

    would vacuum the rugs around the altar, paint the priests’ living quarters,

    and repair the parishioners’ sputtering cars for no charge.

     Sonny never once called in sick and never once forgot the family

    that gave him a chance. Every Friday, payday, Sonny would stop at a

    bakery and buy a large strawberry shortcake so all the Tiedemanns

    could enjoy dessert.

     “Sonny was the spark that kept us going,” George said, “because he

    never took a break.” Sonny idolized Julia Tiedemann, and he liked to

    make her husband proud. If John Tiedemann wanted a room painted,

    Sonny made sure that room got painted while John was away on business

    so he would be pleasantly surprised on his return.

    Sonny married a Tiedemann; of course he did. Dorothy was a niece

    of John and Julia’s, a devoted Yankees fan who loved hearing the crack

    of Joe D.’s bat on the radio, and who hated seeing Babe Ruth’s lifeless

    body when she passed his open casket inside Yankee Stadium in 1948.

     Sonny and Dorothy, or Dot, would raise fourteen children, including

    another Dorothy, or Dot. The Connors family spent some time in

    the castle before moving to nearby West Milford, New Jersey, where

    Sonny served as the same working-class hero for his kids that John

    Tiedemann was for him.

     Sonny and his wife took in troubled or orphaned children and made

    them their own, and it never mattered that money was tight. “Sonny

    went back to his own experience as a boy,” said Monsignor Thomas

    Madden, the pastor at Queen of Peace. “The Tiedemanns took care of

    Sonny, so it was in his nature to take care of others. . . . And Dorothy

    had just as big a heart as he did.”

     One of their flesh-and-blood daughters, Dot, ended up in the army

    and was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, where in 1972 she met a

    black soldier named Sanderson Charles Jeter, raised by a single mother

    in Montgomery, Alabama. They married the following year, at a time

    in America when the notion of a biracial president was more absurd

    than that of a human colony on Mars.

     Naturally, Sonny did not approve of the marriage. He worried over

    the way the children would be treated, worried they would be teased

    and taunted by black and white. “Sonny was very concerned about

    that,” Msgr. Madden said. “He would ask, ‘Will they be accepted? Will

    they have to fight battles?’ ”

     His questions would start to be answered on June 26, 1974, when

    Derek Sanderson Jeter was born at Chilton Memorial Hospital in the

    Pompton Plains section of Pequannock, New Jersey.

     If Sonny initially did not have a relationship with his daughter’s hus...

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: Paperback

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547747606

  • ISBN-10: 0547747608

  • Pages: 448

  • Price: $16.99

  • Publication Date: 04/03/2012

  • Carton Quantity: 24

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