Jeter Faithful Will Take Issue, But It's Part Of The Beauty Of Making Sports Lists

By Jason Keidel
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Men love lists. It’s our catnip. Magic or Bird? Magic or Michael? Goodfellas or The Godfather? Ginger or Mary Ann?

So it didn’t take much to make us chisel our chosen ones into our metaphorical Mt. Rushmore. Once LeBron threw down with his hardwood royalty, going Magic, Michael, Bird, and Big O, America is atwitter with reaction.

Bill Russell retorted with a sense of sarcasm, if not bitterness, after King James refused to crown the iconic Celtic. Frankly, it’s beneath Russell to even reply, as a man with 11 rings need not answer to a man with two.

But it got a lot of us thinking about lists and sports, our favorite kind of alchemy. The national debate has become so hot and neurotic we can’t even agree on the number of entrants.

A basketball team fields five players, while Mt. Rushmore has four faces. So how do we reconcile the two? And do we pick the four or five best players ever or must we be position-specific? For instance, Isiah Thomas picked several centers, while others considered size in their final cuts.

And do we pick players we actually saw or pluck the pioneers who predate us?

My NBA Mt. Rushmore, regardless of era or position:

Michael Jordan

Magic Johnson

Wilt Chamberlain

Bill Russell

(Oscar Robertson, if you allow five)

My Mt. Rushmore as an actual basketball team would consist of Magic, Michael, Larry, Tim Duncan and Wilt.

Then Derek Jeter announced his retirement, spawning a healthy, heated dialogue about his place in pinstriped history. No doubt this column will light a wildfire under the more jaded Jeter congregation. (Yes, I put a pitcher in front of St. Derek. That pitcher happens to be the greatest reliever of either century).

So now we ponder his place in the pantheon, and where his bronze bust will nestle in Monument Park.

My Yankees Mt Rushmore:

Babe Ruth

Lou Gehrig

Joe DiMaggio

Mariano Rivera

I can’t reach the Jeter zombies, the ones who bombed my Twitter account because I dared to question his candor over the years, wondering aloud if he were truly intimate with the fans. Despite the fact that I spent at least six paragraphs detailing his diamond dominance, I am evidently a hater and closet Mets fan because I thought he dealt with New York City in strictly a corporate cadence.

Jeter is the Yankees’ greatest position player since Mantle. That’s not good enough for the “Got Rings?” t-shirt crowd, who can’t name two players prior to 1996 other than Don Mattingly and Reggie Jackson.

But, at my own peril, here are my top 10 Yanks:






Yogi Berra


Whitey Ford

Earle Combs


I will get flack for the Mattingly pick, but he had more hits, homers, and a higher batting average than Thurman Munson, Phil Rizzuto, and Tony Lazzeri. (Neither Roger Maris nor Reggie Jackson were Yankees long enough for consideration).

Apologies to the Bill Dickey crowd. A Hall of Famer, Dickey had a .313 career average to Mattingly’s .307, plus more RBI (1,209 to 1,099). But Mattingly had more hits, homers, runs, and doubles. Plus, Donnie Baseball was the best first baseman in the American League for a decade (dude won Gold Gloves).

If you’d like to put Jeter in front of Yogi — a three-time AL MVP — have at it. But Jeter can’t crack my top 5. The problem isn’t with Jeter as much as the Yankees’ history is so fertile with first-ballot Hall of Famers. With most teams, No. 2 would be No. 1.

Though this is all a matter of opinion, some of you will counter with your own list as though The Deity wrote it for you. But that’s part of it, with fan being short for fanatic, and all. We sportswriters promote sports as a vital slice of Americana, so we can’t very well scoff when you overreact to something as subjective and innocuous as a list.

The good news is A-Rod is forever eliminated from this — or any — list. And it’s rather fitting and proper that Jeter gets to take his final victory lap sans his eternal tormentor, who was always at Jeter’s side, but never had his back.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel

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