New York baseball has had its fair share of jerks, egomaniacs and just plain bad dudes. But there is also a long line of pleasant, gracious guys who have graced the New York sports scene. So in honor of the late Bobby Murcer, who was one of the all-time nice guys of Gotham, here is a list of some of the good guys who have passed through the New York baseball world.
Lou Gehrig: He had an incurable disease and still called himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. He didn’t have an ounce of bitterness or hatred in his body. Though he may have kicked Gary Cooper’s ass if was around to witness the actor’s baseball skills.
Joe Torre: Managed both the Mets and Yankees, and did so with class and dignity. Survived George Steinbrenner for 12 years, and probably deserved a Purple Heart for it.
Phil Rizzuto: A Hall-of-Fame player, Hall-of-Fame announcer and Hall-of-Fame character. The worst thing he would ever say about anybody was to call him a “huckleberry.”
Rusty Staub: Established the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund to aid families of policemen and firefighters killed in the line of duty. That says it all about this nice guy, gourmet chef and pinch-hitting extraordinaire.
Yogi Berra: Has had a million quotes attributed to him and is one of the great catchers of all-time but is also a gentleman’s gentleman. How can anybody not like Yogi?
Ralph Kiner: From his Hall-of-Fame career to Kiner’s Korner to his guest-announcing spots today, he is a legend of baseball and a legendary nice guy. He’s a walking baseball museum.
Elston Howard: He was the first African-American to play for the Yanks, and it is a little-known fact that he invented the batting donut. He was pure class in his time as a player and coach in the Bronx.
Jerry Koosman: Ralph Kiner once called him the most pleasant Met he ever dealt with. That’s good enough for me.
Gil Hodges: A popular player for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Hodges led the Mets to the World Series in 1969 and taught them how to be professionals at the same time. A former marine, he was one of the most respected people in New York baseball history.
Willie Randolph: Even Mets fans who wanted him fired can’t find a bad thing to say about him personally. His strategy, bullpen maneuvering and whatnot may have been questionable but not his class and dignity.
Robin Ventura: Just plain nice with a dry sense of humor. In New York, his grand slam single in the ’99 playoffs is his signature moment, but elsewhere, unfortunately, he may go on to be remembered most for getting beaten up by Nolan Ryan.
Mariano Rivera: Never says a bad word about anybody. Billy Wagner should be taking lessons from this guy.
David Wright: The boy next door who mows your lawn, fixes your screen door, drives in 100 runs and has his own charitable foundation. He once saved a litter of puppies from a burning house, put out the fire himself and rebuilt the house―all in one off-day.
Roy White: Was the bridge from the Horace Clarke era to the Reggie Jackson years. While the Bronx Zoo was roaring, you never heard a bad thing about Roy White. He wasn’t the straw that stirred the drink; he was the comforting bowl of pretzels to go along with the drink that made sure you didn’t get too light-headed and say something dumb, such as “I’m the straw that stirs the drink.”
John Olerud: What quiet dignity looks like wearing a batting helmet.
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