#21 Paul O'Neill
A Class Act, A Hard Nose Ballplayer and a Yankee Through and Through
Was scouted by Gene Bennett...graduated from Brookhaven High School in Columbus, OH...was primarily a pitcher in high school, earning All-State honors in baseball and basketball...also played football...father, Chick O'Neill, played Minor-League baseball...enjoys tennis, golf and music...grew up a Willie Mays fan...lists Pete Rose's 4,192nd hit as one of the most dramatic moments he has witnessed...a Rolling Stones fan...a direct descendant of Mark Twain...was the recipient of the Joe DiMaggio "Toast of the Town" Award in 1997, presented annually by the BBWAA...received the New York Press Photographers Annual "Good Guy" Award for 1999.
PHIL REMEMBERS PAUL
Even before Paul O’Neill put his first leg into his pinstriped pants he became an instant favorite in New York. His first exposure to New York was at the 1993 Yankee Fan Fest. Paul’s line was longer than just about any other player in attendance. The product of an off-season trade for Yankee centerfielder Roberto Kelly, O’Neill won the hearts of the fans without a swing of the bat.
Paul got the big hit time and time again. He played the outfield where the likes of Ruth, Mantle, Maris and Murcer roamed as good as any of them. He was a valuable addition to a potent Bomber line up. Just being on base helped the clean up hitter that much more effective. He had the class of Maris and Mattingly with the feistiness’ of Munson or his nemesis Piniella. He was as much a Yankee as any player that came up through the system.
Paul O'Neill officially announced his retirement after Game 7 of the World Series, packed up his Yankee gear, his drumsticks and nine years' worth of memories and left the clubhouse to take on the role as Dad to his wife and kids. O'Neill acknowledges that he will miss being a part of baseball, but 20 years away from his family was more than enough for him.
His final appearance for the fans came in Game 5 of the World Series, at Yankee Stadium. Baseball wasn’t invented there but it sure was perfected. In the middle of the fifth inning, the scoreboard showed a video montage of O'Neill's greatest moments in pinstripes while the Scandal's 1980s hit, "The Warrior" -- the nickname Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner gave to his four-time All-Star right fielder --was playing.
O'Neill was 0-for-3 on the night, walking twice. After the top of the ninth inning, the fans, realizing that they may be seeing their warrior for the final time in pinstripes, began chanting his name. "Paul-O'Neill, Paul-O'Neill." It rang throughout the stadium for the entire inning, the crowd waiting for O'Neill to acknowledge their feeling for him.
When the inning ended, O'Neill moved toward the dugout as the Yankees had one final chance to win the game. As O'Neill started down the steps, he waved his hat in the air, giving the fans exactly what they wanted. Moments later, Scott Brosius sort of stole the attention at least for a moment, hitting the two-run home run that tied the game and sent it to extra innings.
The Right Fielder (or fielders) who replaces O’Neill will have their work cut out for them. They will be under the kind of pressure that Tino had when he replaced the Hitman at first base. He will have the kind of pressure that Jerry Narron or Brad Gulden had when the replaced the late, great Thurman Munson behind the plate. They will be under pressure by the press, fans and teammates alike. It wouldn’t surprise me if it takes two or three tries to find a suitable replacement.
Paul's Career Stats
Paul O'Neill Photo GalleryBACK TO BTB