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The Yankees Are Retiring Paul O’Neill’s Number In Monument Park, Which Is Different From Giving Him A Plaque In Monument Park, Which They Already Did, And Also Different From Giving Him A Monument In Monument Park, Which They Haven’t Done, Even Though A Monument Involves A Plaque

Paul O'Neil laughs
Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

Monument Park: You’d think the gist of it would be summed up by the name, wouldn’t you? It’s a park, and there’s monuments in it, and if you’re a good enough New York Yankee, the franchise honors you when your career is over by adding you to the list of legends with monuments beyond the outfield.

My rudimentary understanding of the legacy maintenance that consumes baseball’s richest franchise means that, at first, I thought I understood perfectly this team tweet that went out today.

Feels like a bit of a stretch, but whatever, it’s none of my business. Paul O’Neill gets his number retired by the team he played for just a bit longer than he did the Reds, and he gets a monument thing in Monument Park. Ho-hum, just some slow news on yet another day where these official team channels won’t acknowledge their actual current players.

Oh wait … just one more thing. What is THIS!?

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

This, Exhibit A, is a photo that Getty Images refers to as, “former New York Yankee Paul O’Neill and his wife Nevalee unveil his Yankee Stadium monument park plaque before a game.” The photo is dated Aug. 9, 2014. What the hell! That looks like a dang monument in monument park! What gives?

To solve this obvious contradiction, I went to the best source I could find on short notice: The dreaded Defector Yankees fan Barry Petchesky.

He was less than helpful. But through my own journalistic grit I uncovered the truth hidden within this labyrinthine system of remembering guys. Here is Exhibit B, a photo of Monument Park:

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

What you can see here are three distinct items. You’ve got your main attraction, which is the classic monuments. You’ve got your rows of retired numbers. And you’ve got your plaques, which go up on a wall in the back. Each monument and retired number does, in effect, involve a plaque, but not all plaques are monuments or retired numbers. As far as the hierarchy goes, the general classification seems to be that any old schlub who once hit a dinger off Casey Fossum—or stopped by the ballpark for a visit without even playing baseball, in some cases—can get a plaque, which O’Neill received several years back. If you’re especially good, you can be elevated into the company of retired numbers, all of whom also enjoy either plaques or monuments. However, only if you’re a legend from the franchise’s golden era, or the worst terrorist attack in the history of this nation, can you ascend to the category of “monuments.”

I broke it down for you with some examples:

I hope this clears up any confusion.

Correction (2/23, 4:04 p.m. ET): The image above originally included Bernie Williams as a Yankee who had a plaque but not a retired number. Williams in fact has both, and his place has now been taken by Tino Martinez. I hope this clears up any confusion.