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New York Awards: Sports

Paul O'Neill

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New York was rough on Paul O'Neill at first. The Yankees were lousy and his car was stolen. Twice. But O'Neill made his Bronx debut in April 1993, a certain mayor was elected in November of that year, and before long the Yanks were champs and crime was nearly gone. Coincidence? Probably. But Paul O'Neill and Rudy Giuliani -- tenacious, occasionally obnoxious white ethnics with admirably high standards and secret soft sides -- will forever be symbols of the nineties New York resurgence. O'Neill's exit had Hall of Fame grace. Top of the ninth, World Series Game Five, his last scheduled appearance in right field at Yankee Stadium: He paces, head down and teary-eyed, as 56,018 chant "Paul O-nee-ulll!" over and over, a verbal wave. "I wanted to acknowledge the fans, but we were losing at the time," O'Neill says in the clubhouse afterward. "To have people recognize you like that, for something you love doing . . ." He notices an efficient clubhouse boy picking up his jersey and heading for the laundry. "Hey," O'Neill says, "I'll take care of that." He clutches his pinstriped No. 21, turning it over in his hands. "I should have slid tonight. Baseball uniforms look better dirty." A classicist to the end.


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