The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Shameful end to the 21 saga

Posted by: Peter Abraham - Posted in Misc on Apr 16, 2008 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

LaTroy Hawkins told Scott Miller from CBS Sports.com that he will change numbers today. Bowing to the wishes of “fans” who have been booing him (and worse), he will go to No. 22 today.

Hawkins didn’t want to talk about it last night when I asked him, politely asking not to be interviewed. He clearly wants this whole mess behind him.

Tyler Kepner of the Times says it well in his blog today: Yankee fans were not classy.

I agree. Paul O’Neill was a good player but not one worthy of having his number retired. At some point, the Yankees have to have some standards. Beyond that, Hawkins wanted 21 to honor Roberto Clemente.

Hawkins is a good person who has established himself as one of the leaders in the clubhouse. He is also a well-respected player around the game. What do you suppose he would tell a potential free agent who asks his opinion of playing for the Yankees?

O’Neill should have told fans to give Hawkins a break. Is that how you honor one man, by making another feel miserable?

Nice legacy for No. 21 now. It’s not retired but it can’t be used because some fans are jerks. If it does get retired now, it won’t be for the right reasons.

Be careful what you wish for.

UPDATE, 4:03 p.m.: People seem really fired up about this issue, which is great. O’Neill was a heck of a player and you have every right to love a player.

A few points:

1. The Yankees can retire a number at any point. Several players wore No. 3 after Babe Ruth. If the Steinbrenners decide today, tomorrow or in five years they want to retire No. 21, they can.

2. You can’t retire numbers based on “emotional leadership” or because somebody was a member of great teams. It has to be for individual accomplishment. David Cone was a pretty emotional guy who played on great teams. You want to retire his number? Beyond that, kicking water coolers and throwing your bat isn’t leadership. If you think other players watch that and get inspired, you know nothing about baseball. This isn’t football.

3. I have (so far) received four e-mails and had to delete four posts that were over-the-top racist in nature. I suspect racism is at the core of this for some fans, which is a shame.

4. You want to boo Hawkins, go right ahead. That’s your right. Just know that the other players are cringing. How does booing a player in 2008 honor a player who retired in 2001? It doesn’t.

UPDATE, 7:03 p.m.: Here’s what Paul O’Neill told the AP about the situation:

“What can I say? The fans have always been unbelievable to me there. I don’t really know how to explain it. It makes you feel good that the fans still think of you as wearing that number.”

It makes you feel good that the fans booed another Yankees? Interesting take.

Joe Girardi: “I obviously understand the feelings for Paul O’Neill because I was here, and I know what he meant to me as a teammate and what he means to me as a friend, and what he means to the people of New York, Yankees fans. But LaTroy was trying to honor Roberto Clemente, someone he looked up to. It was nothing against Paul O’Neill. I think LaTroy has the ultimate respect for Paul O’Neill. It’s a tough spot.”

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