|AS HARD-NOSED AS THEY CAME.|
|THE GUTS OF THE LAST YANKEE DYNASTY.|
DEFINING THE PLAYER
- Paul O'Neill played with the fire of a wide-eyed linebacker that endeared him to hometown fans and sparked Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to proclaim him ''a warrior.'' You just didn't want to be around O'Neill when he made an out or grounded into a double play, lest you get bonked with a bouncing helmet or soaked by an overturned cooler. His passion for 17 seasons was the glue binding five World Series championship teams. The five-time All-Star won the 1994 AL batting crown, hit 281 homers, drove in 1,269 runs, slashed .288/.363/.470 and destroyed an untold amount of equipment.
- O'Neill, who announced he would retire at the end of the '01 season, was playing his final game at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 1 in Game 5 of the World Series. The hometown fans who cherished his go-for-the-throat personality sent him out in style. Standing in right field in the top of the ninth, the Stadium erupted with chants of his name that continued until the inning ended and O'Neill ran off the field in tears. Trailing the Diamondbacks 2-0, the Yankees fed off the emotion and tied the game before winning in the 12th.
- Before the '94 strike in early August, O'Neill was amid his finest season. He was slashing a career-high .359/.460/.603. In 368 at-bats, he hit 21 homers with 83 RBI.
FIVE FINAL FACTS
- Born in Columbus, Ohio, O'Neill was a fourth-round pick of the Reds in '81.
- His temper provided a humorous blooper-reel classic with the Reds on July 5, 1989, when he tried to field #177 Lenny Dykstra's hit. With Steve Jeltz preparing to round third in the bottom of the 10th inning, O'Neill bobbled the grounder and couldn't get a handle on the ball. He then gave up and angrily kicked at it with his left foot, sending it on a line to first baseman Todd Benzinger in time to hold Jeltz at third.
- O'Neill was part of the underdog Reds team that won the '90 World Series in a sweep of the defending champion Athletics.
- The Yankees shrewdly acquired O'Neill in November '92 for #120 Roberto Kelly.
- Upon his arrival in the Bronx for the '93 season, O'Neill took #98 Don Mattingly's No. 3 spot in the batting order, where he hit until he retired, four World Series rings later.