Thursday, April 17

LaTroy Hawkins Gives the Fans Something Back: #21

I watched the Yankees-Red Sox game last night at Turtle Bay, a disgusting little bar on 52nd and 2nd that offers a “Wednesday Night Recession Special” where local drafts are only $1. Needless to say, by the time Yankees relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins came in during the sixth inning, I had a few beers too many. In fact, I thought I was so drunk that I was seeing things: LaTroy Hawkins was wearing #22 on his uniform.

To those of my readers who are not avid sports fans, Hawkins started a huge controversy in the NY area when he decided to wear #21 to honor Roberto Clemente. #21 belonged to legendary Paul O’Neill, the beloved Yankees right-fielder who retired in 2001. Seven years later, #21 has not been retired but has also not been worn.

When Hawkins first ran out onto the field this season with #21 on his back, fans were horrified and appalled. They booed and chanted Paul O’Neill, as a subtle reminder to Hawkins that he’s playing in St. Paul’s house. O’Neill was cordial, saying he was appreciative of how many fans still associate that number with him but noted that it was weird to see another Yankee player wear it.

After a lot of negative press and surely, a lot of pressure, Hawkins switched his number last night to #22. Donning Roger Clemen’s old number (who misses him anyway?), the switch served him well: he pitched two scoreless innings and earned the win against the Red Sox. And that’s exactly how Paulie would have wanted it.

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