Wednesday November 14, 2012

Local baseball fans like Derek Jeter, but they don't think he's the greatest Yankee of all time.

A couple of weeks ago, in the wake of the Yankees making the playoffs yet again in the Jeter era, I posed a question: Is Jeter the greatest Yankee of all time? I based this on a couple of things, some statistical, some not. Jerry West, former Laker star and GM, once said that greatness was a function of consistency and durability combined with talent. I think I would agree.

So this totally unscientific popularity poll had what I would say was a pretty good response, maybe a dozen emails and calls. In rough order, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Miickey Mantle and Babe Ruth got the nod over the current Yankee shortstop.

Some may be surprised that Ruth is fifth, but as one poster noted, "Ruth may be the greatest, or one of the greatest players of all time, but a lot of his greatness came because he was a pitcher for the Red Sox, and then an outfielder for the Yankees. You really can't separate the two careers." Good point.

Gehrig got several votes. Many noted that had he not died at 38, Jeter's present age, he would have had a much more statistically rish career. Similar thoughts were voiced of Joe DiMaggio's career, shortened in its prime by World War II.

Berra scored votes based in large part on his amazing record as a winner: 10 world championships. Like Gehrig at first base and DiMaggio in center field, Berra is considered by most Yankee fans as the franchise's greatest catcher (although there are some Bill Dickey fans out there).

Mantle's sheer athleticism got him some votes. His tendency for injuries probably held him out of the ultimate spot, but as one emailer pointed out, "He had power, speed, a great baseball mind and was one of the best teammates ever."

So, okay, Jeter isn't the greatest ever. In fact, a few emailers gave Mariano Rivera the nod as the best Yankee of this modern era. But I appreciated the response and everyone who wrote me had excellent points.

One emailer jokingly asked why I wouldn't do the same kind of poll for the Red Sox. Well, because it wouldn't be a contest, that's why. We all know it's Teddy Ballgame.

n

A lot of good stories in this fall season. Two of my favorites were the St. Joseph's boys' and girls' soccer teams. The boys were 3-12-1 last year, and improved this fall to 10-8-1 overall, making the Western Mass. tournament. The girls were 3-11-2 in 2011 and improved to 8-7-3, also earning a post-season berth. Kudos to coaches Betsy D'Agostino and Aziz Adjao, and the players, who turned it around.

n

I remember taking the call from Pittsfield coach Andy Waluszko a few weeks back: His Generals had tied defending Division II state champion Auburn. That was when I knew this was going to be a good team.

The Generals proved they were as good -- as great -- a team as any in the state this past week, beating top seed East Longmeadow and taking Minnechaug past overtime and into penalty kicks in the Western Mass. Division II championship game.

In the East Longmeadow game, the PHS girls scored a late goal to win it. Dramatic. But in the title tilt, they punched a goal in with 12 seconds left in the game to tie it.

That they lost the game detracts not a whit from the quality of their play. It was a dramatic, heartbreaking game. That is sports.