Paul O'Neill (baseball)

Paul Andrew O'Neill (born February 25, 1963) is an American former baseball right fielder who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB). He played for the Cincinnati Reds (1985–1992) and New York Yankees (1993–2001).[1] O'Neill compiled 281 home runs, 1,269 runs batted in, 2,107 hits, and a lifetime batting average of .288. He won the American League batting title in 1994 with a .359 average. He was a five-time World Series champion and a five-time All-Star (1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, and 1998).[2]

Paul O'Neill
O'Neill at Yankee Stadium in 2011
Right fielder
Born: (1963-02-25) February 25, 1963
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
Batted: Left
Threw: Left
MLB debut
September 3, 1985, for the Cincinnati Reds
Last MLB appearance
October 7, 2001, for the New York Yankees
MLB statistics
Batting average.288
Hits2,105
Home runs281
Runs batted in1,269
Teams
Career highlights and awards

O'Neill is the only player to have played on the winning team in three perfect games. He was in right field for the Reds for Tom Browning's perfect game in 1988. He caught the final out (a fly ball) in the Yankees' David Wells' perfect game in 1998, and he made a diving catch in right field and doubled to help the Yankees win David Cone's perfect game in 1999.[3]

After retiring from playing baseball, O'Neill became a broadcaster for the Yankees on the YES Network. He currently works on the network as the lead game analyst and color commentator.

Early life

A native of Columbus, Ohio,[4] O'Neill and his family were fans of the Cincinnati Reds.[5] His older sister was Molly O'Neill (1952-2019), a chef, cookbook author, and food writer for The New York Times.[6]

O'Neill attended Brookhaven High School. He played baseball and basketball. In basketball, O'Neill earned all-state honors in his senior year 1981 and Central District Player of the Year.

Playing career

Draft

O'Neill was drafted by the Reds in the fourth round of the 1981 Major League Baseball draft.[7]

Cincinnati Reds (1985–1992)

O'Neill made his major-league debut on September 3, 1985, and singled in his first at-bat. For the rest of the 1985 season, O'Neill played in five games with four hits and one RBI.[8] He spent most of the 1986 season in the minors. He played only in three games with the Major League team during 1986 and did not get a hit in the majors that year. O'Neill split his time between the minors and the Major League team in 1987. He appeared in 84 games for the Reds that year, batting .256 with seven home runs and 28 RBI.[8]

O'Neill in 1996

In 1988, his first full season with the Reds, O'Neill played 145 games, batting .252 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs. O'Neill played 117 games in 1989 batting .276 with 15 home runs and 74 RBI.[8]

In 1989, O'Neill had a similar stat line, batting .276 on the year with 15 home runs and 74 RBIs. On July 5th, he famously kicked a ball back into the infield after he bobbled it in shallow right, preventing a runner from second from scoring on the play (a single). The play is referenced on his Baseball-Reference page, where his characteristics are listed as "Bats: Left, Throws: Left, Kicks: Left".[8]

In 1990, O'Neill played in 145 games batting .270 with 16 home runs and 78 RBI. O'Neill batted .277 during the 1990 postseason with a home run and 5 RBI as the Reds won the World Series over the Oakland Athletics. O'Neill clashed with Reds manager Lou Piniella, who wanted O'Neill to change his swing to hit more home runs.[9] In response to the clash, O'Neill improved greatly in 1991 by playing 152 games with a career high of 28 home runs. He batted .256 with 91 RBI as well. In his final season as a member of the Reds, O'Neill played in 148 games batting .246 with 14 home runs and 66 RBI.[8]

New York Yankees (1993–2001)

On November 3, 1992, the Reds traded O'Neill to the Yankees for Roberto Kelly.[10] In his first season as a Yankee, O'Neill played 141 games batting .311 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs.[8]

During the strike-shortened 1994 season, O'Neill played 103 games with a .359 batting average, 21 home runs, and 83 RBIs which led him to be selected to his second All-Star game. O'Neill won the batting title, and the Yankees led the East division by six and a half games when the players' strike ended the season.[11] He signed a four-year, $19 million contract. In 1995, O'Neill played in 127 games batting .300 with 22 home runs, 96 RBIs, and an MLB-leading 25 double plays committed. He led the Yankees to the postseason for the first time since 1981, but they lost to the Seattle Mariners in the division series despite winning the first 2 games.[12]

O'Neill (right) with Gary Denbo in 2001

On April 30, 1996, O'Neill hit a long home run to Eutaw Street off of Arthur Rhodes while playing at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. O'Neill famously was his own toughest critic, seemingly never satisfied with his own performance and known for his emotion on the field; when disappointed with his performance or angry with an umpire's decision he would attack water coolers or toss bats on the field.[13] His tirades were both praised and criticized by the media and fans. O'Neill was involved in a brawl with Seattle catcher John Marzano. O'Neill had complained to the umpire that the previous pitch was high and inside. Marzano then hit the much bigger Paul O'Neill with a haymaker. The two grappled, and the benches cleared. During the 1996 season, O'Neill played in 150 games batting .302, 19 home runs, 91 RBIs, and a career-high 102 walks. He ended Game 5 of the 1996 World Series by robbing former Yankee teammate Luis Polonia of the Atlanta Braves of an extra-base hit, preserving a 1–0 victory for the Yankees. The Yankees would then win the series, which was their first World Series championship since 1978.

In 1997, O'Neill played in 149 games batting .324 with 21 home runs and 117 RBIs. He led the Yankees into the postseason again, batting .421 with two home runs and seven RBIs[14] but lost the division series to the Cleveland Indians.[8] In 1998, O'Neill played in 152 games batting .317 with 24 home runs and 116 RBIs. He led the AL by grounding into 22 double plays. O'Neill led the Yankees into the World Series where they won against the San Diego Padres in a 4-game sweep and helped the team win a record 125 games.[15] In 1999, O'Neill played in 153 games batting .285 with 19 home runs and 110 RBIs. O'Neill played Game 4 of the 1999 World Series just hours after his father died. The Yankees eventually won the game and swept the Braves to win their 25th World Series Championship.[16]

In 2000, O'Neill played in 142 games batting .283 with 18 home runs and 100 RBIs. He led the Yankees into the postseason again, who won the World Series over the New York Mets.[17] In 2001, O'Neill played in 137 games batting .267 with 21 home runs and 70 RBIs. In Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, O'Neill received a sendoff from New York fans. While standing in right field in the 9th inning with the Yankees down 2–0, the entire stadium chanted his name. When the inning ended, O'Neill was still being cheered. With tears in his eyes, he tipped his cap, and another roar went up from the crowd at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won the game 3–2, but lost the series 4 games to 3.[18]

Legacy

Paul O'Neill's number 21 was retired by the New York Yankees in 2022.

O'Neill is fondly remembered by Yankee fans as the "heart and soul" of the team's dynasty in the 1990s. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner also labeled him as a "Warrior."[19] He was given this nickname due to his passion and love for the game.

Since his retirement after the 2001 World Series, his number 21 was only worn once, when relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins briefly wore the number to start the 2008 season. On April 16, 2008, Hawkins switched to number 22 in response to the criticism he received by many Yankee fans.[20] Following an announcement on February 22, 2022,[21] the Yankees retired O'Neill's number 21 on August 21, 2022, at Yankee Stadium.[22] Because O'Neill has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, the team had to make changes to the retirement ceremony to comply with its health protocols: no current Yankees could join O'Neill on the field, for example, and it was unclear whether he could visit any of the broadcast booths during the game.[23][24]

The Yankees honored O'Neill with a plaque in Monument Park on August 9, 2014.[25]

In 2022, O'Neill released Swing and a Hit: Nine Innings of What Baseball Taught Me, written with Jack Curry.[26]

Television

Left to right: Michael Kay, O'Neill, and Ken Singleton broadcasting a Yankees game in 2009.

In 1995, while still a player for the Yankees, O'Neill had a cameo role on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld. In the episode "The Wink", Cosmo Kramer approaches O'Neill in the Yankees' locker room and says that he must hit two home runs in the next game to fulfill the wish of a sick little boy. In the ensuing game, which is entirely offscreen, O'Neill hits one home run and achieves an inside-the-park home run which is scored a triple due to the other team's error.[27] Though "The Wink" was the fourth episode broadcast during Seinfeld's seventh season, O'Neill's scene was the first scene filmed for that season.[28] He is also mentioned in the Friends episode "The One with Rachel's Big Kiss".

Broadcasting career (2002–present)

Starting after his retirement from baseball in 2001, O'Neill serves as an analyst on the New York Yankees Pre-Game Show and the New York Yankees Post-Game Show, as well as a color commentator for the YES Network.[1] O'Neill returned to Ohio to live with his family.

On July 7, 2009, O'Neill was inducted into the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame[29] (18 W. 33rd St. inside Foley's NY Pub & Restaurant) in New York City along with longtime Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, broadcaster Vin Scully, former player Steve Garvey, umpire Jim Joyce, and blind sports reporter Ed Lucas.

Since the 2020 season, due to social distancing requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic, O'Neill has participated in Yankees broadcasts remotely from a basement studio nicknamed "Studio 21" in his Ohio home.[30] O'Neill continued to broadcast games remotely during the 2022 season; the New York Post reported that this is because he has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.[31]

Personal life

O'Neill and his wife, Nevalee, were neighbors in Columbus. They have three children, and live in Montgomery, Ohio.[4] His nephew, Michael, also played baseball in the Yankees organization.[32]

After retiring from his playing career, O'Neill authored a book entitled Me and My Dad: A Baseball Memoir. The book discusses his relationship with his father, who instilled in him a love for the game of baseball.[4]

At a press conference in Jupiter, Florida in March 2016, O'Neill endorsed Donald Trump for president.[33]

See also

References

  1. "YES Network announcer bio". Web.yesnetwork.com. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  2. "Broadcasters | yankees.com: Team". Newyork.yankees.mlb.com. June 19, 2012. Archived from the original on March 29, 2019. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  3. "O'Neill Tribute". Behindthebombers.com. August 25, 2001. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  4. Johnston, John (April 21, 2003). "Paul O'Neill savors good days: Standout with the Yankees and Reds has a book coming out about his dad and enjoys being a dad in Montgomery". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  5. O'Neill, Paul; Rocks, Burton (2003). "Family Man". Me and My Dad: A Baseball Memoir. New York: Harper Collins. pp. 24–25. ISBN 9780062029157.
  6. "StarChef MollyO'Neill's Biography". Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  7. "Paul O'Neill Statistics and History – Baseball-Reference.com". Bb-ref.org. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  8. "Paul O'Neill Statistics and History". Baseball Reference. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  9. Curry, Jack (February 25, 1999). "BASEBALL; Trip to Monument Park Not on O'Neill's Itinerary – New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  10. Curry, Jack (November 4, 1992). "BASEBALL; Yankees Trade Roberto Kelly to Reds for O'Neill". The New York Times.
  11. Christopher Connors. "Number 21 Continues to Remain Sacred to the New York Yankees". Bleacher Report. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  12. "1995 AL Division Series - Seattle Mariners over New York Yankees (3-2)". Baseball Reference. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  13. "Who Saw Milton Bradley's Tirade ? [Archive] – NYYFans.com Forum". Forums.nyyfans.com. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  14. "Paul O'Neill Stats". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved August 30, 2020.
  15. "1998 New York Yankees". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  16. "1999 New York Yankees". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  17. "2000 New York Yankees". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  18. "2001 New York Yankees". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  19. Bodley, Hal (November 5, 2001). "Yankees' 'warrior' has Bronx swan song". USA Today.
  20. "Yankees reliever LaTroy Hawkins gives up No. 21". New York Daily News. April 16, 2008.
  21. "Yankees to retire Paul O'Neill's No. 21". MLB.com. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  22. "Yankees to retire Paul O'Neill's No. 21". MLB.com. Retrieved August 21, 2022.
  23. Marchand, Andrew (August 10, 2022). "How Yankees and YES will try to salvage the awkwardness of Paul O'Neill Day". New York Post. Retrieved August 21, 2022.
  24. "Yanks retire O'Neill's No. 21; GM Cashman booed". ESPN. August 21, 2022. Retrieved August 21, 2022.
  25. "Yankees to honor Joe Torre, Rich "Goose" Gossage, Tino Martinez, and Paul O'Neill in 2014 with plaques in Monument Park; Torre's uniform no. 6 to also be retired: Ceremonies are part of a recognition series that will include Bernie Williams in 2015". MLB.com (Press release). May 8, 2014. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
  26. O'Neill, Paul; Curry, Jack. "A Memorable Chat With the 'Voice of God'". nytimes.com. The New York Times Company. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  27. "The Wink". Seinfeld Scripts. Retrieved August 20, 2012.
  28. Seinfeld Season 7: Notes about Nothing - "The Wink" (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 2006.
  29. Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  30. Kuty, Brendan (August 22, 2020). "How Paul O'Neill became Yankees' broadcast MVP from his basement 500 miles away". NJ Advance Media. Retrieved May 6, 2021.
  31. Marchand, Andrew (April 12, 2022). "Unvaccinated Paul O'Neill called Yankees game from home while in YES limbo". New York Post. Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  32. "Yankees draft Paul O'Neill's nephew".
  33. Slattery, Denis (March 9, 2016). "Former Yankee outfielder Paul O'Neill endorses Donald Trump". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 12, 2017.
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