Yankees retire Paul O'Neill's number 21

For Morgan Ensberg, damage control began when he saw his uniform number in spring training in 2008. It was 21, the number worn by Paul O...


For Morgan Ensberg, damage control began when he saw his uniform number in spring training in 2008. It was 21, the number worn by Paul O’Neill for nine seasons in sterling pinstripe, and after six years out of circulation, the Yankees had decided to reintroduce him quietly. Big mistake, thought Ensberg.

He begged the Yankees clubhouse manager to give him a new number at the start of the season. He offered $5,000 to buy a different number from teammate Wilson Betemit. He even apologized to O’Neill, who insisted he didn’t mind. But Ensberg knew he would never win over the masses.

“The fans said it very clearly, even in spring training, ‘That’s Paul’s number!'” Ensberg, who is now director of Tampa Bay’s agricultural system, said Wednesday by phone. “I was like, ‘I know, it’s just spring training, I already talked to the clubbie, we’re fine.’ You have certain people, it doesn’t matter if they’re not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, they’ve done so much and they’re such an example of this team, you don’t want to touch that stuff.”

The Yankees announced Tuesday that they would retire O’Neill’s number in a ceremony on Aug. 21. a very late statement of the obvious.

“I heard a big reason for that was the support from the fans, and if that’s true, all I can do is be grateful,” O’Neill said during a videoconference. Wednesday. “I’ve always been grateful to the New York fans. They treated me amazing, both as a player and in the pit call games.

With the announcement of the Yankees, O’Neill left a more exclusive – but less famous – group than the one he had now joined: a secret society of stars whose uniform numbers were no longer in circulation, but not at the retirement.

In some cases, the numbers seem destined to be retired eventually, such as No. 5 for the Mets (David Wright) and 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).

But there are several that have been out of action for decades or more, an oddity the closest All-Star Josh Hader encountered when he joined the majors with Milwaukee in 2017. Hader grew up close to Baltimore and was hoping to wear No. 17, like his favorite player, BJ Surhoff of the Orioles. That number was technically available with the Brewers, but the team hadn’t issued it since longtime infielder Jim Gantner last used it in 1992.

“It’s like a retired number that’s not retired, so I just said 17 back is 71, and I just rolled with it,” Hader said a few years ago.

The Brewers have five retired numbers, but all are for Hall of Famers: former owner Bud Selig (1), Paul Molitor (4), Robin Yount (19), Rollie Fingers (34) and Hank Aaron (44) . Gantner has never made an All-Star team but has strong local appeal: A native of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, about 70 miles northwest of Milwaukee, he played his entire 17-year career with the Brewers and helped them reach their only World Series, in 1982.

Here are a few players who lingered for years – even decades – in the middle ground O’Neill escaped:

No. 34, Los Angeles Dodgers

From his spellbinding rookie season from 1981 to 1986, Valenzuela went 97-68 and led the Majors in strikeouts, innings and earned run average (minimum 100 starts). He was never the same after that – except for a 1990 non-hitter, when Vin Scully told viewers, “If you have a sombrero, throw it skyward! — but as the team’s first Mexican superstar, his role in broadening the Dodgers’ appeal still resonates.

No. 19, Seattle Mariners

Buhner teamed with Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez in the middle of the roster for the 1995 team that saved baseball in Seattle. He never left the Mariners after his infamous Yankees trade for Ken Phelps in 1988, and he hit his last career home run in the Bronx in the 2001 playoffs.

No. 21, Boston Red Sox

Clemens has a complicated Boston heritage, but he’s been warmly welcomed in recent years, as has Wade Boggs, who also joined the Yankees later in his career and had his number retired in 2016. The Red Sox inducted Clemens into their Hall of Fame. in 2012 and hasn’t given his number since letting him go as a free agent after the 1996 season.

No. 7, Baltimore Orioles

When the Orioles fired Ripken Sr. as manager in 1988, just six games into their 21-game season-opening streak, his son Billy took his father’s No. 7 for the rest of that season. year. No Orioles player has worn it since. (No. 7 is prominently displayed next to a notorious bat handle on Ripken’s 1989 Fleer baseball card.) The team also does not issue No. 44, which was carried by former player and coach Elrod Hendricks, and he stopped giving No 46 after Mike Flanagan, the team’s former pitcher and manager, passed away in 2011.

No. 8, Mets

The Mets spoiled this one badly. After releasing Carter in 1989, they issued Number 8 to Dave Gallagher, Carlos Baerga, and Desi Relaford until 2001. They haven’t distributed it since, but they inexplicably never retired it for Carter, a Hall of Famer who died in 2012. The Montreal Expos retired Carter’s number 8 (and number 10 for Andre Dawson and Rusty Staub), but the franchise did not retire those numbers when it started over as the Nationals from Washington.

No. 6, Chicago White Sox

Lau, an influential hitting coach, died of cancer at age 50 in 1984, and his number has not been used since another coach, Walt Hriniak, wore it as a tribute in the 1990s. Ozzie Guillen’s number 13 has also been out of circulation since his last game as manager in 2011. That’s unusual for the White Sox, who don’t usually waste time retiring their numbers. In 1989, they retired number 3 from Harold Baines just weeks after trading him to Texas. Baines returned to the White Sox several times as a player and coach – and he always got his old number back.

No. 29, Kansas City Royals

Quisenberry, a closer submariner with a world-class mind, won five Rolaids Relief Man awards for the Royals in the 1980s. They kept his number in use and eventually gave it to Sweeney, a premier player goal that made five All-Star teams in the 2000s. No one has worn it since.

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

Kile, an enduring and beloved starter, was only 33 when He died of a heart attack during a Cardinals road trip to Chicago in 2002. It was the first death of an active player in the regular season since Thurman Munson’s plane crash in 1979. None of Kile’s three teams have issued the number 57 ever since, and all of their stadiums still display a commemorative circle with “DK 57.”

The number of other people who died in the middle of a season – including Nick Adenhart (No. 34) and Tyler Skaggs (No. 45) of the Angels and Jose Fernandez (No. 16) of the Miami Marlins – also remained unknown. of use, although Noah Syndergaard will wear No. 34 for the Angels this season with the blessing of the Adenhart family. (Thanks to Ed Pearsall on Twitter for the tip.)

Expect a few future ceremonies for the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants to celebrate their success in the 2000s. wore: 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, #15 (Bruce Bochy) and #55 (Tim Lincecum).

And, of course, it’s a safe bet that no Giants player will ever wear 28 again, the number of Buster Posey, the three-time World Series champion catcher who retired in November.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Yankees retire Paul O'Neill's number 21
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