The Yankees Retire Paul O’Neill’s Number 21


For Morgan Ensberg, injury management began when he noticed his uniform quantity at spring coaching in 2008. It was 21, the quantity worn by Paul O’Neill for 9 sterling seasons in pinstripes, and after six years out of circulation, the Yankees had determined to quietly reintroduce it. Large mistake, Ensberg thought.

He begged the Yankees’ clubhouse supervisor to offer him a brand new quantity when the season began. He provided $5,000 to purchase a distinct quantity from his teammate Wilson Betemit. He even apologized to O’Neill, who insisted he didn’t thoughts. However Ensberg knew he would by no means win over the lots.

“The followers made it very clear, even throughout spring coaching: ‘That’s Paul’s quantity!’” Ensberg, who’s now a supervisor within the Tampa Bay farm system, stated by cellphone on Wednesday. “I used to be like: ‘I do know, it’s simply spring coaching, I’ve already talked to the clubbie, we’re good.’ You’ve gotten sure individuals, it doesn’t actually matter that they’re not within the Baseball Corridor of Fame, they’ve carried out a lot and so they’re such an instance of that group, you don’t need to contact that stuff.”

The Yankees introduced on Tuesday that they’d retire O’Neill’s quantity in a ceremony on Aug. 21. However the followers had retired it way back, hounding reliever LaTroy Hawkins till he gave it up shortly after Ensberg dropped it in 2008. Tuesday’s announcement was a much-delayed assertion of the plain.

“I’ve heard {that a} massive purpose for this was the backing of the followers, and if that’s true, all I can do is be grateful,” O’Neill stated throughout a video convention name on Wednesday. “I all the time have been grateful to the New York followers. They’ve handled me unbelievable, each as a participant and up within the sales space calling video games.”

With the Yankees’ announcement, O’Neill leaves a extra unique — however much less celebrated — group than the one he has now joined: a secret society of standouts whose uniform numbers are out of circulation, but not retired.

In some instances, the numbers appear destined to be retired ultimately, equivalent to No. 5 for the Mets (David Wright) and the St. Louis Cardinals (Albert Pujols), No. 15 for the Los Angeles Angels (Tim Salmon) and maybe No. 3 for the Tampa Bay Rays (Evan Longoria).

However there are a number of which have been out of use for many years or extra, a quirk that Josh Hader, the All-Star nearer, encountered when he joined the majors with Milwaukee in 2017. Hader grew up close to Baltimore and hoped to put on No. 17, like his favourite participant, the Orioles’ B.J. Surhoff. That quantity was technically obtainable with the Brewers, however the group had not issued it since Jim Gantner, a longtime infielder, final used it in 1992.

“It’s like a retired quantity that’s not retired, so I simply stated 17 backward is 71, and I simply rolled with it,” Hader stated a number of years in the past.

The Brewers do have 5 retired numbers, however all are for Corridor of Famers: the previous proprietor Bud Selig (1), Paul Molitor (4), Robin Yount (19), Rollie Fingers (34) and Hank Aaron (44). Gantner by no means made an All-Star group however has robust native attraction: A local of Fond du Lac, Wis., about 70 miles northwest of Milwaukee, he performed his complete 17-year profession with the Brewers and helped them attain their solely World Sequence, in 1982.

Listed here are a number of gamers who’ve lingered for years — and even a long time — within the center floor O’Neill has escaped:

No. 34, Los Angeles Dodgers

From his spellbinding 1981 rookie season by 1986, Valenzuela went 97-68 and led the majors in strikeouts, innings and earned run common (minimal 100 begins). He was by no means fairly the identical after that — apart from a 1990 no-hitter, when Vin Scully advised viewers, “You probably have a sombrero, throw it to the sky!” — however because the group’s first Mexican famous person, his function in broadening the Dodgers’ attraction nonetheless resonates.

No. 19, Seattle Mariners

Buhner teamed with Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez in a punishing center of the order for the 1995 group that saved baseball in Seattle. He by no means left the Mariners after his notorious commerce from the Yankees for Ken Phelps in 1988, and he hit his remaining profession dwelling run within the Bronx within the 2001 playoffs.

No. 21, Boston Pink Sox

Clemens has an advanced legacy in Boston, however he’s been welcomed again warmly in recent times, very like Wade Boggs, who additionally joined the Yankees later in his profession and had his quantity retired in 2016. The Pink Sox inducted Clemens into their Corridor of Fame in 2012 and haven’t given out his quantity since letting him depart as a free agent after the 1996 season.

No. 7, Baltimore Orioles

When the Orioles fired Ripken Sr. as supervisor in 1988, simply six video games into their season-opening streak of 21 losses, his son Billy took his dad’s No. 7 for the rest of that 12 months. No Orioles participant has worn it since. (The No. 7 is prominently displayed subsequent to a infamous bat deal with on Ripken’s 1989 Fleer baseball card.) The group additionally doesn’t challenge No. 44, which was worn by the previous participant and coach Elrod Hendricks, and it stopped giving out No. 46 after the loss of life of Mike Flanagan, the previous pitcher and group govt, in 2011.

No. 8, Mets

The Mets bungled this one badly. After releasing Carter in 1989, they issued No. 8 to Dave Gallagher, Carlos Baerga and Desi Relaford by 2001. They haven’t given it out since, but they’ve inexplicably by no means retired it for Carter, a Corridor of Famer who died in 2012. The Montreal Expos did retire Carter’s No. 8 (and No. 10 for Andre Dawson and Rusty Staub), however the franchise unretired these numbers when it began over because the Washington Nationals.

No. 6, Chicago White Sox

Lau, an influential hitting coach, died of most cancers at age 50 in 1984, and his quantity has been out of use since one other coach, Walt Hriniak, wore it as a tribute within the Nineties. Ozzie Guillen’s No. 13 has additionally been out of circulation since his final sport as supervisor in 2011. That is uncommon for the White Sox, who usually waste no time retiring numbers. In 1989, they retired Harold Baines’s No. 3 simply weeks after buying and selling him to Texas. Baines would return a number of occasions to the White Sox as a participant and a coach — and he all the time acquired his previous quantity again.

No. 29, Kansas Metropolis Royals

Quisenberry, a submarining nearer with a world-class wit, gained 5 Rolaids Reduction Man awards for the Royals within the Nineteen Eighties. They saved his quantity in use and ultimately gave it to Sweeney, a slugging first baseman who made 5 All-Star groups within the 2000s. Nobody has worn it since.

No. 57, Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals

Kile, a sturdy and well-liked starter, was simply 33 when he died of a coronary heart assault throughout a Cardinals highway journey to Chicago in 2002. It was the primary loss of life of an lively participant throughout the common season since Thurman Munson’s aircraft crash in 1979. None of Kile’s three groups has issued No. 57 since, and all of their ballparks nonetheless show a memorial circle with “DK 57.”

The numbers of others who’ve died in the midst of a season — together with Nick Adenhart (No. 34) and Tyler Skaggs (No. 45) of the Angels and Jose Fernandez (No. 16) of the Miami Marlins — have additionally remained out of use, although Noah Syndergaard will put on No. 34 for the Angels this season with the blessing of the Adenhart household. (Due to Ed Pearsall on Twitter for the tip.)

Anticipate a number of future ceremonies for the Boston Pink Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants to have fun their success within the 2000s. All the following numbers have been shelved for the reason that final time these individuals wore them: for Boston, No. 15 (Dustin Pedroia), No. 33 (Jason Varitek) and No. 49 (Tim Wakefield); for Philadelphia, No. 6 (Ryan Howard), No. 11 (Jimmy Rollins), No. 26 (Chase Utley) and No. 35 (Cole Hamels); and for San Francisco, No. 15 (Bruce Bochy) and No. 55 (Tim Lincecum).

And, in fact, it’s a secure wager that no Giants participant will ever once more put on 28, the variety of Buster Posey, the three-time World Sequence champion catcher who retired in November.