Paul O’Neill Deserves It But Isn’t It Getting A Bit Ridiculous

Paul O'Neill Yankees Warrior

News about Paul O’Neill and the retirement of his number has to be met with an open heart by fans. But aren’t the Yankees pushing it a bit?

Paul O’Neill was coined “The Warrior” by the late Yankee’s owner George Steinbrenner – and no one has argued the tag for many reasons since then.

According to the New York Post, O’Neill was reported as being “stunned” by announcing that his Number 21 would be forever retired.

With no disparagement to O’Neill, I venture to say I was too, and reluctantly I am left to conclude that too much of a good thing means nothing.

Reportedly, Paul O’Neill dropped his phone. His wife, Nevalee, teared up. They were both stunned at the news that the Yankees had decided to retire his No. 21 jersey.

Known to wear his emotions on his sleeve as a Yankee, the report is entirely believable – but that isn’t the point.

In nine seasons with the Yankees, he notched a .303/.377/.492 slash line with 185 homers and 858 RBIs in 1,254 regular-season games.
Credible enough, but that’s only numbers, and as knowledgable fans know, that is always only a portion of any baseball story.

Paul O'Neill - A Yankees Warrior (The Boss)
Paul O’Neill – A Yankees Warrior (The Boss)

Paul O’Neill earned this entitlement for his grit as much as his numbers – and I see little reason to challenge that.

Images of O’Neill taking his bat to the water cooler in the Yankee’s dugout following a poor at-bat should not mean to suggest that he “cares” more than any other Yankee who has ever worn the pinstripes.

Paul O’Neill In The Shadow Of…

Dare we suggest too that Paul O’Neill’s 21 next to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle – you get the idea – has the same consequence?

Any fan of the Yankees has to answer that question with a resounding – no!

Let’s be clear. This is not about Paul O’Neill – it’s about the New York Yankees and them knowing that on August 21, 2022, there will be a sell-out crowd at Yankee Stadium to honor a fan favorite.

New York newspapers and media will be drawn to this event, regardless of where the Yankees sit in the 2022 AL Standings in that timeframe.

It will be a time to rejoice about times that have passed in the wake of drought in Yankee titles since 2009. O’Neill has remained within the scope of Yankee fans as an intelligent and no-holds-barred commentator on the team’s YES network.

Yankees History 1903-2020 Steve Contursi - Reflections On Baseball
Yankees History 1903-2020 Steve Contursi – Reflections On Baseball

But there is cause to wonder if the Yankees are relegating Paul O’Neill to a term of indentured servitude – tied to the Yankee’s franchise forever because they have bestowed an award that escapes even his imagination.

O’Neill is not the only Yankee to bear this cross. Go back to review the numbers of the players the Yankees have “retired.”

Skip the Ruths and the Mantle’s to find Billy Martin, known as much for the number of times he was fired by George Steinbrenner, to Elston Howard, who, if I’m blunt and honest, was awarded the honor for being the Yankees belated addition of a black player well after Jackie Robinson.

Meander down through the list to find Jorge Posada, who, let’s face it, happened to be a notch above a major league catcher, a member of the Core Four and always the last player mentioned.

Reggie Jackson? Included for what – three swings of his bat on one night when he shined coast to coast in one World Series game?

Once again, let’s not delve too far from the point, which is that the Yankees are retiring more numbers than their farm system can produce All-Star (new) players – and that is a problem for them as they face another (possibly) lost season.

Paul O’Neill is caught in the middle of this, and as gracefully as he weathered his tenure with the Yankees, he will surely put his Warrior hat on – who wouldn’t – to accept the honor come August.

I’d like to know who in the Yankees hierarchy researched and authorized the commendation to O’Neill.

How far back in the Yankees Public Relations and Ticket Sales Departments was the decision made?

It’s not like O’Neill’s name was thrown in a lottery, and he won.

It’s About The Yankees – Not Paul O’Neill

We’ll never know the inner workings of the Yankee’s organization, and neither will Paul O’Neill. But it causes to wonder.

But toss aside all that because Paul O’Neill – the Person – if not the ballplayer with stats that equal Ruth or Dimaggio – remains the personification of a New York Yankee.

Say no more, Paul. The day is yours. Soak it in, and I wish you the best always.

Here’s The Text Of A Noteworthy Comment I Received


I agree with you! And not only because my last name is Contursi! I believe that Paul O’Neil is deserving of special recognition for both on and off-the-field representation of the Yankees tradition!

I do not have a problem with him getting this honor! However when I think of Yankee Baseball; it is Ruth, DiMaggio, Gehrig, Mantle, Ford, Yogi, and Jeter!  There are other great contributors to the Yankees legend!

And they deserve to be recognized for that, but as a world, we seem to need heroes so bad that we have lowered the standards to accept socially acceptable players over out and out influencers of the game.

A perfect example of this is Don Mattingly! I love this guy, he was not around long enough (due to injury) to be voted into the Baseball Hall of fame! There are certainly other players like that in the Yankees history.

I think that if the Yankees organization were to develop a second or third plateau there would be a place for these players! To all the players who were mentioned in this email and to others who were not, I say thank you for playing on the Yankees and giving me so much excitement over the years of watching Yankee Baseball!

Joe Contursi, Hyde Park, NY

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.