O'Neill at Yankee Stadium, 2011.
|Born: February 25, 1963|
|September 3, 1985, for the Cincinnati Reds|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 7, 2001, for the New York Yankees|
|Runs batted in||1,269|
|Career highlights and awards|
Paul Andrew O'Neill (born February 25, 1963) is an American former baseball right fielder who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB). He played for the Cincinnati Reds (1985-1992) and New York Yankees (1993-2001). O'Neill compiled 281 home runs, 1,269 runs batted in, 2,107 hits, and a lifetime batting average of .288. He won the American League batting title in 1994 with a .359 average. He was a five-time World Series champion and a five-time All-Star (1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, and 1998).
O'Neill is the only player to have played on the winning team in three perfect games. He was in right field for the Reds for Tom Browning's perfect game in 1988. He caught the final out (a fly ball) in the Yankees' David Wells' perfect game in 1998, and he made a diving catch in right field and doubled to help the Yankees win David Cone's perfect game in 1999.
After retiring from playing baseball, O'Neill became a broadcaster for the Yankees on the YES Network. He currently works on the network as the lead game analyst and color commentator.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, O'Neill and his family were fans of the Cincinnati Reds. His older sister was Molly O'Neill (1952-2019), a chef, cookbook author, and food writer for The New York Times.
O'Neill attended Brookhaven High School. He played baseball and basketball. In basketball, O'Neill earned all-state honors in his senior year 1981 and Central District Player of the Year.
O'Neill made his major-league debut on September 3, 1985 and singled in his first at-bat. For the rest of the 1985 season, O'Neill played in five games with four hits and one RBI. He spent most of the 1986 season in the minors. He played only in three games with the Major League team during 1986 and did not get a hit in the majors that year. O'Neill split his time between the minors and the Major League team in 1987. He appeared in 84 games for the Reds that year, batting .256 with seven home runs and 28 RBI.
In 1988, his first full season with the Reds, O'Neill played 145 games, batting .252 with 16 home runs and 73 RBI. O'Neill played 117 games in 1989 batting .276 with 15 home runs and 74 RBI.
In 1990, O'Neill played in 145 games batting .270 with 16 home runs and 78 RBI. O'Neill batted .277 during the 1990 postseason with a home run and 5 RBI as the Reds won the World Series over the Oakland Athletics. O'Neill clashed with Reds manager Lou Piniella, who wanted O'Neill to change his swing to hit more home runs. In response to the clash, O'Neill improved greatly in 1991 by playing 152 games with a career high of 28 home runs. He batted .256 with 91 RBI as well. In his final season as a member of the Reds, O'Neill played in 148 games batting .246 with 14 home runs and 66 RBI.
During the strike-shortened 1994 season, O'Neill played 103 games with a .359 batting average, 21 home runs, and 83 RBI which led him to be selected to his second All-Star game. O'Neill won the batting title, and the Yankees led the East division by six and a half games when the players' strike ended the season. He earned a 4-year, $19M contract. In 1995, O'Neill played in 127 games batting .300 with 22 home runs, 96 RBI, and an MLB-leading 25 double plays committed. He led the Yankees to the postseason for the first time since 1981, but they lost to the Seattle Mariners in the division series despite winning the first 2 games.
On April 30, 1996, O'Neill hit a long home run to Eutaw Street off of Arthur Rhodes while playing at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. O'Neill famously was his own toughest critic, seemingly never satisfied with his own performance and known for his emotion on the field; when disappointed with his performance or angry with an umpire's decision he would attack water coolers or toss bats on the field. His tirades were both praised and criticized by the media and fans. O'Neill was involved in a brawl with Seattle catcher John Marzano. O'Neill had complained to the umpire that the previous pitch was high and inside. Marzano then hit the much bigger Paul O'Neill with a haymaker. The two grappled, and the benches cleared. During the 1996 season, O'Neill played in 150 games batting .302, 19 home runs, 91 RBI, and a career-high 102 walks. He ended Game 5 of the 1996 World Series by robbing former Yankee teammate Luis Polonia of the Atlanta Braves of an extra-base hit, preserving a 1-0 victory for the Yankees. The Yankees would then win the series, which was their first World Series championship since 1978.
In 1997, O'Neill played in 149 games batting .324 with 21 home runs and 117 RBI. He led the Yankees into the postseason again, batting .421 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI but lost the division series to the Cleveland Indians. In 1998, O'Neill played in 152 games batting .317 with 24 home runs and 116 RBI. He led the AL by grounding into 22 double plays. O'Neill led the Yankees into the World Series where they won against the San Diego Padres in a 4-game sweep and helped the team win a record 125 games. In 1999, O'Neill played in 153 games batting .285 with 19 home runs and 110 RBI. O'Neill played Game 4 of the 1999 World Series just hours after his father died. The Yankees eventually won the game and swept the Braves to win their 25th World Series Championship.
In 2000, O'Neill played in 142 games batting .283 with 18 home runs and 100 RBI. He led the Yankees into the postseason again, who won the World Series over the New York Mets. In 2001, O'Neill played in 137 games batting .267 with 21 home runs and 70 RBI. In Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, O'Neill received a sendoff from New York fans. While standing in right field in the 9th inning with the Yankees down 2-0, the entire stadium chanted his name. When the inning ended, O'Neill was still being cheered. With tears in his eyes, he tipped his cap, and another roar went up from the crowd at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won the game 3-2, but lost the series 4 games to 3.
O'Neill is fondly remembered by Yankee fans as the "heart and soul" of the team's dynasty in the 1990s. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner also labeled him as a "Warrior." He was given this nickname due to his passion and love for the game.
Since his retirement after the 2001 World Series, his number 21 has only been worn once, when relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins briefly wore the number to start the 2008 season but, on April 16, 2008, Hawkins switched to number 22 in response to the criticism he received by many Yankee fans, all the more suggesting that number 21 may one day be retired for O'Neill.
In 1995, while still a player for the Yankees, O'Neill was featured in a cameo role on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld. In the episode entitled "The Wink", O'Neill is approached by Cosmo Kramer in the Yankees' locker room and is told by Kramer that he must hit two home runs in the same game so that Kramer can retrieve a birthday card signed by all the Yankees from a little boy who wasn't supposed to get it in the first place. O'Neill replies that this is very difficult and that he is not usually a home run hitter; he then asks Kramer, "How'd you get in here anyways?" In the ensuing game, O'Neill hits a home run and later appears to have hit a second; the apparent inside-the-park home run is scored a triple due to the other team's error, so the little boy Kramer is trying to appease is not satisfied. Kramer manages to get the Yankee-signed birthday card back from the boy, but he has now promised the boy that O'Neill will catch a fly ball in his hat during the next game. (This is not legal under Major League Baseball rules). He was also mentioned in the Friends episode The One With Rachel's Big Kiss.
Starting after his retirement from baseball in 2001, O'Neill now serves as an analyst on the New York Yankees Pre-Game Show and the New York Yankees Post-Game Show, as well as a color commentator for the YES Network. O'Neill returned to Ohio to live with his family.
On July 7, 2009, O'Neill was inducted into the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame (18 W. 33rd St. inside Foley's NY Pub & Restaurant) in New York City along with longtime Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, broadcaster Vin Scully, former player Steve Garvey, umpire Jim Joyce, and blind sports reporter Ed Lucas.
After retiring from his playing career, O'Neill authored a book entitled Me and My Dad: A Baseball Memoir. The book discusses his relationship with his father, who instilled in him a love for the game of baseball.