Moshe over at Bronx Block recounts some of the more memorable Paul O'Neill moments on this Paulie's 45th birthday:
1) The Catch- O’Neill caught the last out of Game 5 of the 1996 World Series. Off the bat, Luis Polonia’s drive looked like it may tie the game. A gimpy O’Neill was perfectly positioned and caught the ball in the gap at a full run. His punch to the wall after the catch is one of the enduring images of that series.
2) The Chant- The 2001 World Series was tied at 2, and the Yankees were down 2-0 in the ninth inning. Instead of focusing solely on the game, the Yankees’ fans took the time to acknowledge that this was likely Paul’s final game at Yankee Stadium. The chant of “Paul O-Neill” filled the Stadium for minutes, and replays always give me the chills.
3) The Slide- The Yankees trailed the Indians by one run in the 9th inning of Game 5 in the 1997 ALDS. O’neill hit one off the top of the wall, and limped towards second for a double. A hook slide got him in safely, although he came up bloody. The Yankees lost, but the play led the Boss to dub O’Neill “a warrior.”
4) The Walk- The Yankees trailed the Mets 3-2 with one out in the 9th inning during Game 1 of the 2000 World Series. Armando Benitez entered the game to close it out, and the Yankees were desperate for baserunners. Paul worked a 10 pitch walk, scored on a sac fly, and the Yankees eventually won the game and the Series.
5) The Home Run- The Yankees and Mets met at Shea Stadium for the first of three on June 27, 1998. The Yankees trailed 4-3 with one out and two on in the seventh. In an oft criticized move, Bobby V went to Mel Rojas to replace the injured Al Leiter and face Paul. O’Neill smacked the first pitch he saw over the fence in left center, leading to a Yankees victory.
Trading Roberto Kelley for O'Neill is one of the best moves in recent Yankee history; it literally started the dynasty. Paul was not only an offensive force for the Yanks, but also contributed mightily to the atmosphere that lead us to 4 championships in 5 years.