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The Readers' List:
Most beloved ballplayers

From the Page2 mailbag

Poll Results

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.

Here's how the Page 2 staff ranked the most beloved baseball players in history:

1. Babe Ruth
2. Cal Ripken Jr.
3. Stan Musial
4. Mark McGwire
5. Sammy Sosa
6. Ernie Banks
7. Ichiro Suzuki
8. Kirby Puckett
9. Willie Stargell
10. Derek Jeter

Honorable mentions: Roberto Clemente, Mike Piazza, Pete Rose, Carl Yastrzemski, Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson, Tony Gwynn, Willie McCovey, Pedro Martinez, Lou Gehrig, George Brett, Satchel Paige, Al Kaline, Andre Dawson

After going through more than 1,400 letters, we've listed a rundown of the Top 10 vote-getters, along with some of the best letters about each player. Be sure to cast your vote in the poll at left to choose the most beloved baseball player 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.
Mark Demaray

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."
Brian Schulz
Maple Grove, Minn.

Kirby Puckett
Kirby Puckett's love of the game was obvious.
To me, Kirby Puckett will always personify what we would like our heroes to be like. No scowls, diatribes, or pouting. Just determination, commitment to winning and total joy in his profession. From shagging fly balls in spring training to Game 6 of the 1991 series to the press conference announcing his premature retirement, Puckett always displayed a class, dignity and pure love of the game that every player should try to emulate. And all with that famous mile-wide grin. That's what a hero is.
Dave Valentine
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.
Karl Cyr

Nomar Garciaparra
He doesn't need a nickname. Just call him "Nomah."
How can you leave out Nomar Garciaparra? Not even the great Ted Williams could claim the level of affection granted to Nomar by the citizens of Red Sox Nation. Just listen to how the faithful talk about their hero. Nomah. Nooomaaaahh. He doesn't need a last name, and he doesn't need a nickname. It's more than his on-field performance as the league's best shortstop (I will not argue this point, it is a fact, not up for discussion. A-Rod and Jeter fans, you can lower your hands and put your heads on your desks -- no more questions), it's his attitude toward the game and the fans. Look at his smile, the twinkle in his eye when he talks to kids about hitting. You will understand why all of us Red Sox faithful feel a surge of electricity when discussing our Nomar. I'm getting chills right now.
Tim O'Neill
Hingham, Mass.

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.
Kerry Kemper
Banks, Ore.

Cal Ripken
Cal Ripken Jr. or the Easter Bunny? We'll take Cal.
There are two people standing in front of you -- the Easter Bunny and Cal Ripken Jr. In a weird twist, the Devil forces you to beat one of them to death with a baseball bat. I'm sorry, but the bunny is going down. The Easter Bunny only has to show up for work one day a year -- Cal didn't miss a day of work for more than 2,131 consecutive games!

I'll take more than 3,000 hits and more than 400 home runs over a basket of candy each year. I'll take the large shortstop of today (only because Cal paved the way) over the bunny-like shortstops of the past. I'll take the throw across the diamond from one knee over a Cadbury Egg. I'll take 19 All-Star games over a purple peep. I'll take playing for one team for your entire career over assorted jellybeans. I'll pick the Iron Man over a rat with long ears any day!
Kris Adams
Columbia, Md.

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).
Andrew Mariniello
New York

Mickey Mantle
The inspiring play of Mickey Mantle made grown men cry.
The Mick was more than a ballplayer, he was more than a hero. To the youth, he was like a second father. To their parents, he was everything they wanted to be in life.
Henry Hague
Newark, Del.

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.
Dave Kelly
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.
Joe Novick
Charlottesville, Va.

6. Don Mattingly (60 letters)
Don Mattingly
Don Mattingly hit .307 and won nine Gold Gloves during his 14-year big-league career.
Growing up a Yankee fan in the 1980s, the brightest star in George Steinbrenner's jaded sky was always Don Mattingly. Donnie Baseball was the antithesis to everything wrong with the '80s -- soft-spoken, slick-fielding, sweet-swinging and as clutch as clutch was. When he retired in 1995, and the Yankees won the World Series one year later, the win felt empty. Things haven't been the same since.
Dan Walsh
Bethlehem, Pa.

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.
Tim Ryan
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.
Dan Monk
Springfield, Ill.

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.

Ted Williams
Ted Williams was a hero on the baseball field and the battlefield.
He was also considered one of the world's greatest fishermen. As far as his off-the-field accomplishments, he was the driving force for the Jimmy Fund and gave much of his time and dedication to kids afflicted with cancer. And he did all this without television crews following him around. Not only is he one of the most beloved figures in baseball, he is one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century. You know why there has never been a movie on Teddy Ballgame? Because no one would believe it.
Bill Visconti
Woburn, Mass.

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.
Matt Hall
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.
Ken Tindall
Los Angeles

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.
Chad Vulgamore
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.
Matt Clark

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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