March 1, 2024

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Since Paul O’Neill’s number 21 is retired, one last kick for a water cooler

Since Paul O'Neill's number 21 is retired, one last kick for a water cooler

The Yankee Stadium honoring Paul O’Neill on Sunday differed from the one he’s played in for all of his nine seasons in New York, but he felt right at home on his first trip to the stadium this year.

A five-time world champion and current broadcaster for YES, O’Neill was officially retired before the Yankees did. 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

The festivities included appearances by some of his former Yankee teammates — Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettit, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Tino Martinez — and video messages from the likes of Joe Torre, David Kohn, Derek Jeter and Roberto Clemente Jr., who is his father. , famous icon of Pittsburgh Pirates and humanity, She also wore number 21.

The day came with some question marks because O’Neill, who is not immune to Covid-19, is still broadcasting the Yankees’ games remotely. But for the most part, Sunday’s ceremonies played as big as they all do, as fans in the crowd and at home may have been unaware of any strict precautions.

The Yankees (74-48) gave O’Neill, their former fiercely competitive right-back, various gifts, including a custom water cooler with a bandage and a torn baseball bat, a nod to the dugout gear he destroyed so much in his 17 league seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and Yankees. O’Neill played it comically.

Scandal’s “The Warrior” played through loudspeakers during the concert and chants of O’Neill’s name fell from the crowd. (When George Steinbrenner owned the Yankees, he referred to O’Neill as a “warrior.”)

A native of Ohio, O’Neal began his career with the Reds in 1985. The 1992 trade for Roberto Kelly sent him to New York, where O’Neal won his four championships and a batting title while establishing himself as a fan favorite from 1993 to 2001.

O’Neill, who fought 0.300 or better in each of his first six seasons with the Yankees, collected 1,426 hits, 185 home runs and 858 RBI with New York. Overall, he finished his career with an average of .288, 2,105 scores, 281 homers and 1,269 RBI O’Neill added .284 average, 11 home runs and 39 RBI over 85 postseason games, including In it 27 world championship competition.

The Yankees have honored O’Neill before: They assigned him a plaque at Monument Park, outside Central Stadium at Yankee Stadium, in August 2014. While he’s never won a MVP, he slipped off the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot just a year later, it was presented Sunday A fitting achievement for a player that meant a lot to the team and his fans.

“Joining these greats and knowing the number 21 will never be worn by the New York Yankees is by far the greatest personal honor I have ever received,” he said in remarks intended to conclude his speech.

He then quickly returns to the microphone to acknowledge Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium before throwing the first ceremonial pitch to Posada. This concluded O’Neill’s day. He did not speak to reporters after the ceremony.

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Because of his vaccination status, O’Neal called YES Network games from his Cincinnati-area home this season. YES has a workplace vaccine mandate, and other network figures are broadcasting on site. That includes the stage host, Michael Kaye, who helped MC Sunday while standing next to O’Neill.

O’Neill, who did not appear on the Old-Timers’ Day on July 30, thanked YES’s head of production and programming, John J. Filippelli, and his co-workers for their time at the network. “It’s a huge part of what my life is now,” O’Neill, who is in his 21st year with YES, said during his speech.

According to Major League Baseball protocols, unvaccinated individuals cannot contact active players, nor can they enter hideouts and clubs. Although the Yankees are not currently in the party, these restrictions weren’t an issue with O’Neill’s party, which was held at Monument Park and on indoor lawn where active players were watching from the bunker.

Prior to the game, a few Yankees and Blue Jays players were unaware of any concert restrictions and said Covid-19 was becoming less of an everyday concern in MLB circles, even as the pandemic continued.

“I don’t care,” said Lou Trevino, who is in charge of the Yankees, when asked if the Covid rules still affect the daily routine. “If that’s the case, I don’t know because I don’t really care.”

Marinaccio, a newbie right-winger, was referring to when teams visit Blue Jays in Canada, where vaccination is required upon entry. The limitation sometimes resulted in non-vulnerable players losing out on such games – for example, the Kansas City Royals had 10 players on the restricted list He accepted a series in July – but Toronto player Kavan Biggio noted that the Blue Jays must meet the same criteria every time they head to the US.

Other than occasional absences and keeping an app with all the relevant information on the phone for border-crossing trips, Biggio said the baseball world hasn’t been hampered by the pandemic these days to any great extent.

“Our team, we in Canada in general, we are the hardest hit by it,” said Biggio, who tested positive for coronavirus in April after showing symptoms. “Early in the year we would get tested every time we went back to the US etc. We didn’t get tested anymore, but we had to fly to Buffalo or do customs in the US”