Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Paul O'Neill Worshipping Must Stop

Well, this week, LaTroy Hawkins succumbed to pressure from New York Yankees fans who felt No. 21 still belonged to Paul O'Neill and switched to No. 22 when the team began a two-game series against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday night.

I know O'Neill was a great player for the Yankees, showed a lot of fire, and was the man, but is all this ruckus necessary? Is he indeed a Yankee legend? I know he was good -- but should be worthy of not having his number worn ever by someone else?

Honestly, if people feel that strongly -- just have the Yankees retire it.

"What can I say? The fans have always been unbelievable to me there," O'Neill said in a telephone interview from his home in Ohio. "I don't really know how to explain it. It makes you feel good that the fans still think of you as wearing that number."

Hawkins signed with the Yankees during the offseason and wore No. 22 -- which Roger Clemens had last year -- during spring training. Morgan Ensberg wore No. 21 during spring training and switched to No. 11 when the season began. Hawkins then took over No. 21, wanting to honor Roberto Clemente -- Hawkins has a yellow "Retire 21" sticker from on the side of his locker.

A fan favorite because of his emotional play, O'Neill was with the Yankees from 1993-2001 and helped the team win four World Series titles.

"I obviously understand the feelings for Paul O'Neill because I was here, and I know what he meant to me as a teammate and what he means to me as a friend, and what he means to the people of New York, Yankees fans," manager Joe Girardi said. "But LaTroy was trying to honor Roberto Clemente, someone he looked up to. It was nothing against Paul O'Neill. I think LaTroy has the ultimate respect for Paul O'Neill. It's a tough spot."

Hawkins didn't want to discuss the change Thursday, saying the focus on the number was "unbelievable." On Tuesday, he told he made the decision after speaking with Yankees captain Derek Jeter and reliever Mariano Rivera, who played alongside O'Neill.

"I figure if it's important enough for Jeter and Mariano and some other veterans to ask me about it, it's not worth it to keep wearing the number," Hawkins was quoted as saying.

O'Neill, a broadcaster for the YES Network, isn't scheduled to work another game until next week in Chicago. The five-time All-Star said he was largely unaware of the ruckus.

"Obviously, I have nothing against LaTroy for wearing that number," he said.


I know Paul O'Neill was one of the keys to the several championships that the Yankees won in the late 90's; however, why is he worshipped like he's founded, built, and bought the team?

I guess until the old guard goes away (Jeter, Rivera, Posada) and of course the fans, this case over the number 21 will never go away.

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