Paul O’Neill’s Number 21 Retired by The Yankees


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8 years ago, the Yankees put a plaque in Monument Park to thank Paul O’Neill for his significant contribution to their dynasty.

The Yankees took away his number 21 on Sunday, creating him the 23rd player or manager in the team’s history to be honored in this way.

The ceremony was very different from others because O’Neill isn’t immune to COVID-19 and because the Yankees had lost 14 of their last 18 games before Sunday. Frustrations are so high that Owner Hal Steinbrenner & GM Brian Cashman could be heard getting booed during the 33-minute ceremony.

While Derek Jeter’s No. 2 was retired in 2017, New York’s first ceremony since then had the usual video dedications & messages, gifts, as well as an acceptance speech.

From 1993 to 2001, O’Neill played for the Yankees & hit .303 with 185 homers & 858 RBIs. He was an All-Star four times with the team & won the American League batting title in 1994 when the season was cut short because of a strike.

He did wear No. 21 for his whole big league career, which began with the Reds in 1985 when he was a rookie.

There were also mates Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, as well as former trainer Gene Monahan.

In Monument Park, O’Neill stood with his wife and family 6 minutes into the ceremony to show off his retired number. He was driven onto the field in a golf cart while highlights from his career were shown on the video board. One of the highlights was his running catch to end Game five of the 1996 World Series.

Then, David Cone, Jeter, Joe Torre, and Don Mattingly all sent short video messages. The Hall of Famer’s son Roberto Clemente Jr., and a retired Yankees Spanish-language announcer, also sent a message.

Steinbrenner decided to give O’Neill a framed plaque of his jersey. He also gave him a custom wine bottle with his number 21, a framed jersey signed by present Yankees, and a water cooler, because he liked to slam water coolers in the dugout.

Because O’Neill hadn’t been vaccinated, he couldn’t talk to any of the players on New York’s roster. People who haven’t been vaccinated aren’t allowed in the dugout or clubhouse, so the signed, framed jersey was really the closest he got.

Since the 2020 season was cut short because of the flu, O’Neill has titled games mostly on YES Network from his home in Ohio. In an appointment with NJ Advance Media that was released on Saturday, O’Neill said, “I’d rather not discuss that.”

Because as O’Neill decided to retire after the 2001 World Series, LaTroy Hawkins was the only Yankees player to wear No. 21 at the start of the 2008 season, but he soon changed it.

What do you think, leave a comment below?

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