Let’s have a look back at Paul O’Neill’s New York Yankees career.
On Tuesday, the New York Yankees announced the beloved right fielder’s No. 21 will finally be retired and set up shop in Monument Park.
Paul O’Neill’s No. 21 enters Monument Park. pic.twitter.com/6ewcbEDPKj
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) February 22, 2022
Such was Paul O’Neill and his nine years in the Bronx. Before he was a jovial analyst for the YES Network, he was The Warrior. An Ohio-tough outfielder who chased after any and every ball that tailed away from him. Water coolers feared him if he had a bad game or at-bat.
Four All-Star berths, an AL batting title, and four World Series rings later (plus the one with his hometown Cincinnati Reds in 1990), O’Neill is getting a long-overdue honor. At long last, he’ll join so many of his old teammates in Monument Park.
Let’s have a look back at Paul O’Neill and some of his most memorable moments with the New York Yankees.
And, most important of all, CUE THE MUSIC!
No. 7: Go-ahead RBI single in 1999 World Series
The 1999 World Series pitted O’Neill’s Yankees in a 1996 rematch with the Atlanta Braves, with the first two games down in Georgia. Atlanta held a 1-0 lead for most of the game before the Yankees tied it in the eighth. Soon after, O’Neill’s two-run single off of hard-throwing lefty John Rocker gave New York the lead for good. He didn’t do much else in the series, only batting .200, but the Yankees pulled off the swift four-game sweep.
No. 6: Leaping catch, Game 2 of 1998 World Series
Everyone remembers the Yankees sweeping the San Diego Padres in the World Series to cap the legendary 1998 season, including a marvelous comeback in Game 1. In the first inning of Game 2, O’Neill bunny-hopped onto the right-field wall to steal an extra-base hit from Wally Joyner to record the third out. The Padres stranded two runners, O’Neill probably saved two runs, and the Yankees went on to win the game 9-3.
No. 5: Paul O’Neill torches Angels for three homers, 1995
For a meaningless late-August game against the California Angels, O’Neill brought home a New York Yankees win in epic fashion. In his only three-home run game, O’Neill slugged a pair of three-run jacks and a solo shot before adding an RBI single for good measure. Given how the Angels gave the Yankees fits for over a decade and this 11-6 win capped a three-game sweep, the hardcore fans enjoyed this one a little extra.
No. 4: Saving David Cone’s perfect game, 1999
We all remember David Cone throwing his perfect game on July 18, 1999. What we often forget is how Paul O’Neill literally saved it with just one out in the first inning. Terry Jones’ sinking fly ball to the gap in right-center seemed destined to be a single, but the Warrior had other ideas. In an otherwise meaningless game in July, he extended to make the catch and even did a little backflip. The rest is history, and all because O’Neill treated every out as if the game was on the line.
No. 3: Saving Game 5, 1996 World Series
Paul O’Neill only hit .167 in the 1996 World Series, but mark this writer’s words: he’s the reason the New York Yankees won their first ring since 1978. In Game 5, with the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead, the Braves had two men on with two outs. Ex-Yankee Luis Polonia lofted a fly ball to deep right on the 0-2 pitch. Closer John Wetteland was Captain America, and Paul O’Neill was the Falcon, on his left to sweep in for the game-saving catch.
No. 2: The Warrior Says Goodbye, 2001 World Series
The 2001 World Series was hard for the New York Yankees on several levels, but it hit a little closer to home for Paul O’Neill. He was now 38 years old and retiring at the end of the series. With New York down 2-0 in Game 5, in what would be his final home game, the sellout crowd chanted their champion’s name in a proper sendoff. The Warrior wept and though the Yankees lost the Series in seven games, they rallied to win Game 5 in extras.
No. 1: “The Walk,” Game 1 of 2000 World Series
The New York Mets led 3-2 in the ninth inning of Game 1, but Paul O’Neill wasn’t about to go down easy with one out. Not with longtime Yankees foe Armando Benitez pitching. After falling behind 1-2, O’Neill fouled two pitches off before working the count full, then fouled two more off before drawing the walk. He then advanced on a pair of singles and scored the tying run on Chuck Knoblauch’s sac fly.
This was Paul O’Neill’s New York Yankees legacy. If he wasn’t going his hardest and playing tough every inning, he wasn’t doing his job. And when Paul O’Neill wasn’t doing his job, he took failures very personally.
Just ask any water cooler.