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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.
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.
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.
Sierra Vista, Ariz.
East Rutherford, N.J.
2. Don Mattingly (133 letters)
Donny baseball is the only respectable athlete ever to come out of New York.
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.
Little Ferry, N.J.
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.
Albuquerque, N.M. Mickey Mantle. A sports icon. An American icon.
4. Mark Messier (66 letters)
5. Lou Gehrig (59 letters)
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.
7. Joe Namath (38 letters)
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.
9. Lawrence Taylor (34 letters)
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.
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.
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
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