Picking greatest Yankees in any category is like splitting hairs or flipping a coin or picking the most ripe apple in the bunch during the months of September and October in the Northeast.  How about the most beloved Yankee of all-time?  Just as tough as the next question when regarding the pinstripes, but I have narrowed it (I think) down to a Top 5.  Enjoy.  

  1. Mickey Mantle.  Mantle took over for the legendary Joe DiMaggio in centerfield.  People took right away to his lethal combination of speed and power, the greatest combination of those skills the game has ever seen.  He had the charm and the youth and the look and the smile.  He came from the Midwest to New York and excelled, which people from that area of the country aren't supposed to do.  He was on television and in the spotlight more than Duke Snider and Willie Mays because he was in the World Series just about every year during the Golden Age of Baseball in New York City.  Even though people knew about The Mick's womanizing and drinking, there was something about the Yankee star that made people not care.  They loved him too much.  Plus, what is not to love about the baseball name Mickey Mantle?  Too perfect.  Legendary public address announcer Bob Sheppard once noted that Mickey Mantle was one of his favorite names to announce. Sheppard once said, "Mickey Mantle says 'Every time Bob Sheppard introduced me at Yankee Stadium, I got shivers up my spine.' And I said to him, 'So did I.'"  Only Mickey Mantle could do that to "The Voice of God."
  2. Don Mattingly.  There is a feeling of love but also sadness that turns into more love because Mattingly, unlike so many Yanks legends before and after him, never played in or won a World Series.  Mattingly had 14 great seasons in pinstripes but appeared in just one postseason (1995).  He won an MVP and was a leader.  But "Donnie Baseball" played on some awful teams.  Many Yankee fans would trade in one Joe Torre era World Series win for one during Mattingly's tenure.  That is how much fans love him.
  3. Lou Gehrig.  Babe Ruth was beloved, but not like "The Iron Horse."  Gehrig brought a new sense of pride (yes, pun intended) and class to the Yanks.  Later, he lost his life to the disease that claimed his name, which made Gehrig a tragic figure and enhanced people's love for him even more.
  4. Thurman Munson.  Players in Yankee history wanted to win as bad as Munson, but not more than him.  Munson defined guts, winning, class, intensity and teamwork all in one.  August 2, 1979 will never be forgotten, when Munson was tragically killed in a plane crash while flying back to see his family in Ohio.  Munson's legacy lives on and the love people show for him in the Bronx to this day is astounding.
  5. Derek Jeter.  Talk about winning.  Five World Series rings and seven Fall Classic appearances.  From day one as a rookie in 1996, Jeter took the bull by the horns and made the Yankees his franchise, which isn't easy to do and the fans came to love him for it right away.  The legend grew from there with leadership, amazing October feats and Hall of Fame benchmarks like 3,000 hits.  Jeter crosses over to many pockets of baseball fans including women who love his looks and even those who hate the Yanks but can't hate Jeter.  He has been too good for the game.  Every Little League player should aspire to be Derek Jeter.  Class, respect, will, leadership, teamwork, love for the game, winner, good attitude, guts and a clutch player you can count on.  People love those qualities and they should.  Derek Jeter represents them all.

By:  Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio.  Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/MikeLSports.

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