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The Readers' List:
Most beloved ballplayers
From the Page2 mailbag
On Monday, Page 2 ran its list of the most beloved baseball players in history. We asked for your take, and you filled our mailbag with plenty of choices for the most beloved ballplayer of all-time.
1. Kirby Puckett (150 letters)
My vote has to go to Kirby Puckett. I've never seen a ballplayer have so much fun while he's out there on the field. On top of that, his humility and class are unmatched in the history of baseball. If we're going to start cloning humans, Puck would be a great place to start.
Seattle No one compares to Kirby. Period. Whether it was his desire to play the game day-in and day-out or his community involvement off the field, no one is more loved by fans than Kirby Puckett. Bud Selig should hand out biographies on Kirby to every rookie entering the league and tell them, "This is how you do it."
Maple Grove, Minn.
Sioux Falls, S.D.
2. Nomar Garciaparra (114 letters)
Nomah! How can you not love this guy? He's got the best attitude, he's a natural leader, he's as hardworking as anyone in sports and his appeal spans generations. Go watch the tape of the game in which he came back this season and tell me there's another ballplayer more beloved in this game right now than Nomar Garciaparra. I'll simply laugh at you.
3. Cal Ripken Jr. (106 letters)
Cal Ripken Jr. has shattered any argument I once had on why men should not cry. Cal has supplied more teary-eyed, classic moments than any other modern-day player. He is arguably the most beloved sports figure of our time. Other players have had a one- or two-year run at being a crowd favorite, but Ripken has won fans over from day one.
4. Mickey Mantle (70 letters)
How could you forget Mickey Mantle? I used to work with the Yankees, and middle-age men would come to the stadium and recount story after story about the Mick. Some had No. 7 tattoos. I have seen grown men cry when recounting the story of Mickey twisting his knee on the sprinkler head in the outfield. A mixture of power, speed, grace and personality. This man was a New York Legend. I don't know of anyone with a Derek Jeter tattoo (except maybe Mariah Carey).
5. Babe Ruth (62 letters)
I've never seen him play a game. I hate the Yankees and the Red Sox. I am not a fan of the home run. However, Babe Ruth is probably the reason baseball has grown to the popularity it currently enjoys -- for that, I am grateful and respectful. No man, save my beloved MJ, has captured the nation so thoroughly through his domination of team sports like the Babe did. He was the very first superstar, and he remains the brightest.
Champaign, Ill. Besides being the first icon in sports, the Babe was also the first player who everyone admired. Regardless of how much someone hated the Yankees, the Babe was always watched with excitement and attention. Since the 1920s, other players have reached this level -- Michael Jordan, Willie Mays, Mark McGwire, just to name a few. With all the great sports heroes, Babe Ruth has been the most admired, respected and beloved by all people at all times.
6. Don Mattingly (60 letters)
7. Ozzie Smith (53 letters)
You forgot to follow the yellow-brick road. Of course I'm talking about Ozzie Smith, the most beloved player in Cardinals history. Many young men all over the country began to play baseball because of Ozzie, and many young ballplayers would truly believe they had "O.Smith" on their backs as they played the shortstop position in little league -- I'm one of them.
St. Louis My choice has to be Ozzie Smith. "The Wizard" was the most electrifying defensive shortstop in the history of baseball. Time and time again, he would make dazzling plays in the field that would leave your jaw hitting the floor. And who can forget his unlikely game winning home run in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS. He's a lock for the "Hall" on next year's ballot.
8. Ted Williams (50 letters)
Ted Williams, without question. He transcended the game of baseball. He was John Wayne in real life. Not only was he considered the greatest pure hitter in baseball history -- he was also a true American war hero, sacrificing many of his best years to serve in distinguished fashion in World War II and the Korean War.
9. Pete Rose (48 letters)
Pete Rose! Nobody has defined the passion of the game like Charlie Hustle. Pete Rose was a hometown Cincinnati boy who lived the dream of playing for his favorite team. He played the game the way it was meant to be played. And regardless of what has occurred after his playing career, he was THE player of his era.
Ogden, Utah Pete Rose, a k a "Charlie Hustle", is my choice. I was in Little League when Pete was playing for the Reds. I remember I picked out my first baseball glove because it had his signature on it. I loved the way he played -- running to first on a walk, sliding head first by launching his body like a missile through the air to beat a tag. Obviously, he was one of the greatest contact hitters of all-time. If today's players had his work ethic, enthusiasm and passion in the game would attract a lot more fans.
10. Roberto Clemente (47 letters)
Roberto Clemente. He died the same year I was born. He died helping others. He died with many great years of baseball still left in his body. Ask any ballplayer why he wears No. 2 and chances are pretty good that Clemente's name will come up. I know he was a big part of why I wore that number. The best part of Clemente was his humility and lack of arrogance. He is still one of the greatest all-around ball players, and that comes from a fan who never even saw him play.
Witchita, Kan. Roberto Clemente. Class act all the way. A great ballplayer who meant a lot to the city of Pittsburgh. A great humanitarian, and we all know that's what he died doing. Unfortunately for me, he passed nine years before I was born.
Honorable mention: Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Dale Murphy, Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Mark McGwire, Willie Stargell, Sammy Sosa, Reggie Jackson
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