On Sunday, the NY Yankees retired All-Star right fielder Paul O’Neill’s No. 21 jersey, making him the 23rd player or manager in the franchise to earn the honor. Since O’Neill retired after the 2001 World Series, the only New York player to wear No. 21 was reliever LaTroy Hawkins at the opening of the 2008 season, but he switched back not too long after the season started.
Due to the fact that O’Neill is not vaccinated against COVID-19, he was unable to interact with any current New York players in the dugout. There were also noticeable boos from the crowd for managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman during the 33-minute ceremony, due in part to the Yankees slide in the second half of the season, where they are currently stuck in a 4-14 rut.
The jersey retirement ceremony was New York’s first since 2017, when Derek Jeter’s No. 2 was honored. During his roughly eight-minute speech, the 59-year-old O’Neill – now a popular team announcer – thanked the fans numerous times.A four-time World Series champion as a Yankee, O’Neill was nicknamed “The Warrior” by late owner George Steinbrenner. Said O’Neill: “The fans remember the teams that win and we won. And we won a lot.”
O’Neill hit .303 with 185 homers and 858 RBIs for the Yankees from 1993 to 2001. He was a four-time All-Star with the team and won the 1994 AL batting title during a strike-shortened season. He wore No. 21 for his entire big league career, starting as a rookie with the Reds in 1985. Former trainer Gene Monahan was present at the ceremony along with O’Neill’s teammates Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. There were also brief video messages from Jeter, Joe Torre, David Cone and Don Mattingly, along with a message from Roberto Clemente Jr., the Hall of Famer’s son and a former Yankee Spanish-language announcer.
O’Neill stood next to his wife and family to unveil his retire number in Monument Park and was brought on to the field in a golf cart as highlights played on the videoboard – including his final home game in Game 5 of the 2001 World Series and his running catch to end Game 5 of the 1996 World Series.
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