Derek Jeter the Best NY Athlete of All Time? Really?


In 1975, a survey representing America’s biggest rock and roll stations asked several thousand listeners to name the greatest rock and roll record of all time. The Beatles, you might guess? Stones? Beach Boys? Stevie Wonder? Maybe Elvis? Or The Supremes? None of the above. According to those surveyed, the winner was “Kung Fu Fighting” by the immortal Carl Douglas.

That’s what you get when you take a survey: you get what’s on the mind of the people you ask at the moment you ask.

I’m not saying that Derek Jeter is baseball’s equivalent of “Kung Fu Fighting.” He’s more along the lines of a good Beach Boys single. But according to the 801 New York State residents recently surveyed by the Siena College Research Institute, he’s the greatest ballplayer — nay, the greatest athlete — in New York history.

Yes, I know, such polls are almost always popularity contests no matter how analytical the questions. Yet, it’s amazing that so many would sign “yes” to a question that asks, in effect, if Jeter was better than Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Alex Rodriguez, or Mariano Rivera — to name just seven New York Yankees. And that doesn’t even touch on the score or so of other New York ballplayers from the Giants’ Christy Mathewson, Mel Ott and Willie Mays to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider to the Mets’ Tom Seaver.

For the record, Ruth ate Jeter’s dust, 14 percent to 11 percent, though he finished well ahead of DiMaggio, Mantle and Joe Namath (who ranked highest among football players).

And if you think that’s nutty, among other athletes, Carmelo Anthony, who just got off the plane about three weeks ago, beat Patrick Ewing and Walt Frazier, and Bill Bradley among b-ballers and, overall, Gehrig, Robinson, Mark Messier, and Lawrence Taylor.

The survey, however, did produce some interesting results in other areas. Football beat out baseball as New York’s most popular sport by one percent, 23-22. Yet the Yankees, with a whopping 30 percent, were the most popular sports team in the area followed by a distant 11 percent for both the Mets and Knicks. Neither the Jets (9 percent) nor the Giants (8 percent) were in the running.

If there’s genuine cause for hope in this survey, it’s this: in regard to the current NFL lockout, 58 percent are siding with the players while only 21 percent support the owners.

But according to Dr. Don Levy, director of the SRI, “There is a real meaningful battle going on.” For the first time, “People that favor support and legalization of mixed martial Arts have drawn, for all intents and purposes, equal with the people who oppose it … I think we are going to see MMA legalized here in the state of New York before too long.”

Oh, one more thing: the Islanders, the only professional sports team on Long Island, received just two per cent of the vote from LI residents. This put them in a tie, among Long Islanders, with the Buffalo Sabres. Where the Metro Stars places wasn’t mentioned.