Yankees Honor Paul O’Neill with Plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium

Howard Goldin

Prior to second game of the weekend series between the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians, former Yankee right fielder Paul O’Neill was saluted by unveiling a plaque in his honor that will be placed in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. O’Neill was the third former Yankee who had a plaque in his honor placed in the pantheon of heroes in the iconic ballpark in the South Bronx.

Earlier this summer, Tino Martinez and Goose Gossage were recognized at similar ceremonies. In two weeks, Joe Torre, the former manager who led the Bronx Bombers to World Championships in 1996, 1998 1999 and 2000, will be the fourth 2014 recipient of this great honor.

Unlike the others, O’Neill has remained with the team after his retirement in 2001. He has been an analyst on Yankees games with the YES Network for the past 13 seasons.

The Ohio native was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1981. He played his first major league game in 1985, but only played a handful of games in 1985 and 1986. He remained with the Reds through 1992, and then came to the Yankees in the following season.

The man that was called “warrior” spoke about the importance of that change on Saturday afternoon while on the field with his Yankee teammates, David Cone, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. Also with them to honor O’Neill were trainer Gene Monahan and the team’s skipper Joe Torre.

The honoree speaking for all exclaimed, “The best thing that ever happened to us was to play in New York.” He uttered similar words in a post-ceremony press conference, “We were all lucky to play for the New York Yankees, especially at that time. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

O’Neill’s success with the Yankees far overshadowed what he accomplished in his native state. He batted over .300 for the first time in his big league career in his first year with the Yankees, .311. He bested himself in the following season when he led the American League in batting with a .359 average.

The final nine of his 17 major league seasons were spent in pinstripes. His cumulative totals exhibit his importance, batting average-.303, doubles-304, home runs-185 and runs batted in-858.

O’Neill had the reputation as being a very intense and emotional player who reacted strongly to every individual failure on the field. He responded to questions with honesty regarding his on the field antics, “You don’t plan those things out. Of course, you have regrets at the time. You put pressure on yourself to succeed. That’s the only way I played. Every single at bat meant something to me.”

Speaking of years in which the Yankees were at the height of success, the honored outfielder commented, “It’s an end of a time people remember. This looks like an era you’re not going to replicate soon. I’m just thrilled I was part of it.”