F.J. (Steve) O’Neill, the board chairman and the majority owner of the Cleveland Indians, dies from a heart attack on the way to St. Vincent Charity Hospital after waking with shortness of breath. He was 83 years old.
The death of O’Neill occurred just four days after his youngest brother, William, died. William’s funeral was held just one day before Steve passed. The two had worked with their late brother, Hugh O’Neill Jr., in the family’s trucking and transportation business.
O’Neill took the title of majority stockholder, approximately 60% of the Cleveland Indians, in 1978 after selling his stakes in the New York Yankees. He initially invested in the Indians in 1961 as a minority stockholder and partner with former owner William Daley. He sold his interest in the Indians at the beginning of 1973 to join fellow northeast Ohioan George Steinbrenner as a limited partner in owning the Yankees. Rumors of interest in selling the team came about in 1981, but the deal fell through. At the time, O’Neill assured Mayor George Voinovich that he would make sure that the Indians stayed in Cleveland.
O’Neill, whose full name was Francis Joseph, adopted the nickname Steve in honor of the former Indians catcher and manager of the same name.