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Monday, September 17, 2001
Updated: September 20, 1:38 PM ET
The Readers' List: Most beloved New York athlete

From the Page 2 mailbag

On Monday, Page 2 ran its list of the most beloved athletes in New York history. We asked for your take, and you filled our mailbag with plenty of choices.

OUR TOP 10
Here's how the Page 2 staff ranked the most beloved athletes in New York history:

1. Mickey Mantle
2. Joe DiMaggio
3. Lawrence Taylor
4. Mark Messier
5. Walt Frazier
6. Joe Namath
7. Don Mattingly
8. Willie Mays
9. Lou Gehrig
10. Willis Reed

Honorable mentions: Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza, Tom Seaver, Sandy Koufax, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson, Frank Gifford, Earl Monroe, Wayne Gretzky, Sugar Ray Robinson, Angel Cordero

After going through more than 1,100 e-mails with 112 different nominees ranging from John Rocker to Kenny "Sky" Walker, here are the top 10 choices of Page 2 readers. Be sure to vote in the poll at left to crown New York's most beloved athlete of all-time.


1. Babe Ruth (152 letters)
If an athlete could describe a city it would be Babe Ruth. He was larger than life, like New York City is.

Today, New York is the center of the worlds financial markets. In his time, Babe Ruth was baseball. No one was, or will be, bigger than him. He carried this nation through some of its tough times by being himself -- loving, caring and honest. Anyone who has met a New Yorker knows that these are qualities they all possess. These qualities will help this city and country heal.
Michael Black
Tamarac, Fla.

Babe Ruth as an "honorable mention?!?" Come on.

Babe Ruth is probably the most beloved baseball player ever, period. If that's the case, he shouldn't be listed below Mays, Mantle and DiMaggio. Nobody has ever been bigger than the Babe in baseball, and maybe sports in general.
H. Farrar
Sierra Vista, Ariz.

Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth still has many admirers.
It's gotta be Babe Ruth. In the greatest city in the world he was the greatest athlete in the world. He started the Yankees dynasty that hasn't stopped yet. It's the House that Ruth Built, one of the most well-known stadiums in the world.
Edward Moraghan
East Rutherford, N.J.


2. Don Mattingly (133 letters)
Donny baseball is the only respectable athlete ever to come out of New York.
Jeremy Biggie
Saratoga Springs, Utah

While most of the '80s were painful times for Yankees fans, Donnie was one of the only bright spots. I'll never forget one cap day at Yankee Stadium -- he hit a home run when a lot of people said he was "over the hill." Everybody threw their caps on to the field! What a great manifestation of love people showed Donnie that day.

P.S. He was also the greatest fielding first baseman in baseball history in my humble opinion.
Victor Ocampo
Little Ferry, N.J.

Don Mattingly
Don Mattingly will serve as Joe Torre's hitting coach next season.
Donnie Baseball was Patrick Ewing without the strained relationship with the public. Growing up in the 1980s, I wanted to be just like him. He was a bright spot on a crappy team (remember when Andy Hawkins threw a no-hitter and still lost 4-0?).

And although he didn't have the longevity or accolades that some say are needed to make it to the Hall, I think he's one of those special Kirby Puckett-type players who deserves to be there because he was a damn good player and people loved him.

When the Yanks finally won it in '96, I cried because Mattingly had just missed it, and because he deserved it. Nowadays, I always think to myself, "Couldn't the Yankees just make Donnie a September callup?" Jeter has four rings in his first five years, I'm sure he could share the wealth with the Captain. Ahhh ... I wish.
Chris C.
New Brunswick, N.J.


3. Mickey Mantle (91 letters)
The Mighty Mick. Why? He was the greatest switch hitter ever -- symbolic of New York's ability to adapt and overcome. He played with knee problems his whole career after that damn drainpipe incident, and was continually plagued by thoughts of his dad dying next to him in the hospital, but he seemed to only get better when life and his injuries got worse.

Like New York, Mick was tough, and at his best in times of adversity. The fact that he came from Oklahoma just makes him more of a New Yorker than ever, as it's probably the only true "melting pot" in the country.
Jon Stanford
Albuquerque, N.M.

Mickey Mantle. A sports icon. An American icon.
Ryan
Indianapolis

4. Mark Messier (66 letters)
Mickey Mantle
Mickey Mantle personified the Yankee Dynasty.
DiMaggio, Mantle, Reggie, Willis Reed, LT -- all great leaders. All inspirational. But no one raised his team to their level like the Messiah. He carried a team on his back to the promised land, touching off a celebration unparalleled in New York sports history.

The Giants (sadly) were in Pasadena when they reached their pinnacle, the Jets in Miami, and the Yanks clinched so many titles on the road. The Mess did it right in the heart of the Big Apple -- except for his hat trick in Game 6 of the conference finals, which he fittingly did on enemy turf.

But he lifted the Cup at the Garden, and New York lifted it with him.
Andrew Kessler
Arlington, N.J.


5. Lou Gehrig (59 letters)
Mark Messier
Mark Messier helped end the Rangers' Stanley Cup drought in 1994.
Hands down, Lou Gehrig is the choice for most beloved New York athlete. This guy had class on and off the field, unlike some other players on his team (Babe Ruth, "cough").

His streak made him a hero to the working people of N.Y. It would be a shame not to see this N.Y. poster boy at No. 1. He deserves it.

Tony Rizzaro
Brooklyn, N.Y.


6. Patrick Ewing (48 letters)
Patrick Ewing symbolizes what a New York athlete should be: someone who pours his heart and soul on the court for every game. He proved he was one of the great warriors of the game and played with so many injuries.

Why anyone criticizes him is beyond me because even with below average supporting casts (Starks, Oakley, Charles Smith and others) the Knicks were always one of the top teams in the NBA. It's just a shame that they waited so long into his career to finally get players around him.
Ken
New Jersey


7. Joe Namath (38 letters)
Joe Namath
Joe Namath led the Jets to the biggest Super Bowl upset of all-time.
I am not really qualified to vote for this, being a Tennessean, but I would vote for Broadway Joe. White shoes, blue eyes, and a mink coat on the sidelines typified to those of us (kids) out in the rest of the United States what New York must be like: glamorous, bold and untouchable from afar.
John Denson
Nashville, Tenn.


8. Joe DiMaggio (37 letters)
The man epitomized what a great athlete should be: physical prowess and grace on the field and off.

He was a fantastic ballplayer, his 56-consecutive-game hitting streak in 1941 was then, and still is today, a remarkable feat of athletic ability.

Off the field, he was simply a class act, well-dressed and well-loved, DiMaggio should be an example of what today's players should aspire to. The man was like a rock, solid and stoic until his dying day.

Plus, he was married to Marilyn Monroe. If that's not reason enough for him to be loved, I don't know what is.

Joe DiMaggio is the most beloved New York athlete because he epitomized what New York is all about: style and class.
Matt Vitagliano
Washington


9. Lawrence Taylor (34 letters)
Lawrence Taylor
New York loved LT because he played like a crazed dog.
Unlike other cities New York loves its athletes for what they do on the field and not what they do off of the field. They loved Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth even though they were both alcoholics and womanizers. But there was no other athlete in New York history who had a worse off the field record than Lawrence Taylor. Even though he has been dealing with a drug problem for some time, New York still loves him.

He might be the only defensive player in the history of the NFL who could win a game single-handedly. He dominated offenses like no other. He caused offenses to change their entire set up to try to contain him. It never worked, and the Giants fans loved him for it.

He never took a play off. He gave 100 percent every down. He played injured. And New York loved him for it.

You can still see him on the sidelines today cheering on the Giants just like he did when he played. Just look at the Monday night game in New York when they retired his No. 56 jersey. The crowd was cheering him as if he just crushed some worthless QB.
Mike Lippens
Chicago


10. Thurman Munson (25 letters)
How could you forget Thurman Munson? The man personified the blue-collar Yankee like no other Yankee player ever.

In the turbulent '70s, Thurman was the man who worked harder than the rest and defined what made New York City great.

He was beloved by all of New York and not just Yankee fans. I grew up in Jersey about 20 minutes from the stadium, and I still well up with tears thinking about that horrible day, Aug. 2, 1979, when New York City lost one of its favorites.
Frederick Dobzynski
Atlanta


Worth noting
While all the athletes mentioned in the top 10 are or were great in their time, not one of them will be able to hold a candle, let alone a jock strap, to the brave men and women of the FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority.

In professions where a strained eyelid and "sleeping funny" have kept players out of the lineup, this does not compare to the gut-wrenching performance of the scores of men and women digging out their fallen comrades after the WTC collapse.

Willis Reed didn't hobble into MSG after 300 of his friends and 5,000 of his neighbors were killed. I think that the players from the Giants, Jets, Mets, Yankees, Rangers or Liberty who went out and helped in the efforts of the rescuers would also be more beloved than several of the top 10 listed.

Come on, Mantle was a drunk and that was what killed him. LT was a cokehead and that will probably kill him before his time is up. Broadway Joe acted like a cross-dresser in his pantyhose and fur coats. And although Joltin' Joe was a great player, his arrogance probably cost Mantle a couple hundred home runs when he did not call him off the fly ball that Mantle hurt his knee on.

Enough said. They are all human and have their faults, but I think that the FDNY, NYPD, and other civil servants should be the most beloved of NYC at this time. How many outfielders, linebackers, or point guards could have climbed up 40 or 50 stories wearing turn-out gear, put someone over their shoulder and made it back down to the street, and then turned around to do it again.

I think ESPN carries the firemen games with the obstacle courses and rescue games. Those guys have what it takes to make it in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB and should always have the respect and admiration that they so richly deserve, because without them, there would be a bunch of accountants or -- heaven help us -- a bunch of journalists protecting the cities.
Rew Sloan
Nashville, Tenn.


Honorable mention
Willie Mays, John Franco, Derek Jeter, Phil Simms, Yogi Berra, Mookie Wilson, Reggie Jackson, Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, John Starks, Bill Buckner, Jackie Robinson, Tom Seaver, Ed Giacomin