Top 10 Favorite New York Athletes

As we head into a slow time in sports, I thought it would be a good time to discuss who our favorite New York athletes of all-time are. Now this list can’t consist of guys like Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Willis Reed since I wasn’t remotely close to being born while these guys were in their playing days. Even guys like Bryan Trottier,  Dave Winfield and Phil Simms don’t count (even though they were playing when I was born, I have no recollection of them ever playing). So list is a group of the ten New York athletes who I vividly and unforgettably remember watching them play for my favorite teams. Here they are:

10. Smush Parker (Fordham Rams 2000-2002)

Since almost everyone on my dad’s side of the family attended Fordham University, I grew up going to Rose Hill for a number of Fordham basketball games in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. In seventh grade, my dad and I went to Madison Square Garden to watch the Rams take on the heavily favored St. John’s Red Storm. Even though the Johnnies had stars such as Marcus Hatten and Elijah Ingram, Fordham’s sophomore point guard Smush Parker took the spotlight by throwing down two monster jams over Red Storm power forward Anthony Glover. Even though the Rams lost by 20, Parker showed his dominance dropping 18 points against one of the best teams in the Big East. Smush would end up playing six years in the NBA, predominantly with the Lakers. Parker is the only Fordham Ram to play in the NBA in the past decade.

9. Danny Tartabull (New York Yankees 1992-1995)


Even though Danny Tartabull was predominantly a Kansas City Royal, he was a power hitter for the Yanks during the years when I started to heavily follow baseball. On Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in 1994, I was sitting in the Upper Deck behind home plate. In the bottom of the 5th, Tartabull lead off with a bomb that landed in the black seats. Since I was six years old, this looked like the farthest ball I had ever seen hit. So after that, I became one of the biggest Danny Tartabull fans. Unfortunately, Tartabull was traded right before the trade deadline in 1995 to the Oakland A’s for Ruben Sierra. Interesting fact: Danny Tartabull was the first Yankee to make a guest appearance on Seinfeld.

Click below for the rest of the List:

8. Amani Toomer (New York Giants 1996-2008)

Amani Toomer is the greatest Giants wide receiver of all-time. He finished his career as the Giants all-time leader in total receiving yards, catches and receiving touchdowns. But this isn’t why he’s on this list. He’s here because of his magnificent catch against the undefeated Broncos in 1998. While trailing the Broncos with under a minute to go, Toomer caught a Kent Graham “hail mary” in the end zone to end the Broncos perfect season. Since I was sitting about ten rows back of the endzone where he caught the ball, Toomer instantly became one of my favorite Giants. Toomer has also rarely ever opened his mouth at an opponent or a referee. When he scores, he hands the ball back to the referee without ever performing any sort of touchdown celebration. He’s definitely one of the classiest athletes of our generation.

7. Andy Pettitte (New York Yankees 1996-2003; 2007-2010)

Andy Pettitte During Game 5 of the 1996 World Series

The greatest Yankees pitcher since Ron Guidry. Andy anchored the Yankees rotation for 12 years while leading the staff to five world championships. Since I love all left-handed pitchers, Andy was my man during the dynasty years. With the exception of 1996, Pettitte was never the ace of the staff. But every year in pinstripes, he put together a solid season. Andy also pitched the greatest postseason game I had ever seen in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series. With the series tied at two apiece, Pettitte helped maintain the momentum of the series by pitching eight shutout innings. In the bottom of the 6th of that game, the Braves had runners on first and second with no one out while trailing 1-0. Braves’ second baseman Mark Lemke then put down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, but he bunted right back to Pettitte. Andy then dramatically threw out the lead runner at third. One batter later, Pettitte was out of the inning with a 1-6-3 double play. This inning was my one of the most important innings in Yankees history.

6. Jessie Armstead (New York Giants 1993-2001; 2007)

Jessie was one of the most feared linebackers of the 90’s. Even though the Giants had some rough years following their Super XXV victory in 1991, Jessie Armstead was part of a core defense who helped rebuild the Giants into a contender by the end of the decade. Some of you high school football fans might know Armstead as the best player on the 1988 Dallas Carter football team who defeated the Permian Panthers in the Texas 5A State Championship (the same year the Permian Panthers were featured in H.G. Bissinger’s nonfiction novel “Friday Night Lights”). In October of 1995, I attended my second ever Giants game (the first was in ’94 against the Eagles when the GMen destroyed the Birds). In this game, the GMen and the Cardinals headed to overtime with the game tied 21-21. The Cards were driving the ball into Giants territory on their first possession, until Jessie Armstead intercepted Dave Krieg and returned it for a touchdown to win the game. Even though Armstead played with the Redskins and the Panthers from 2002-2004, he finished his career as a Giant when he signed a one day contract with the GMen in 2007. Once a Giant, forever a Giant.

5. Michael Peca (New York Islanders 2001-2004)

Since I have minimal recollection of the early 90’s Islanders such as Ray Ferraro, David Volek, and Pierre Turgeon, I would have to go with Michael Peca as my favorite Islander of all-time. The Isles signed Peca after 2000-2001 season and he immediately helped the team become contenders. As team captain, Peca scored 60 points and lead the Islanders to their first playoff birth in seven years. On a more personal note, I was able to meet Peca when acting in an NHL commercial when I was in 7th grade. Pretty sure that locks this guy up in the top 5 of this list.

East Side Ryno (left) handing a hockey stick to Michael Peca (right)

4. Don Mattingly (New York Yankees 1982-1995)

Unfortunately, I only was able to witness the tail end of Mattingly’s career. However, when I attended my first Yankees game in 1993, I remember looking out for Mattingly (since Boggs and Mattingly both had staches, I had trouble telling them apart). After the game, my dad bought me a Don Mattingly shirt and bat. So from then on, Mattingly was my man. Since Donnie Baseball was my first favorite Yankee, he deserves to be this high on the list.

3. John Starks (New York Knicks 1990-1998)

Finally, a Knick makes the list. John Starks was my boy. Maybe he wasn’t the most skilled player, but he was the toughest. He didn’t care who you were. He was going to get in your face and make you hate him. I think any one who was ever guarded by Starks probably wanted to kill him. He was the heart of New York. I just wish he could give some of his toughness to the present-day Knicks squad.

Looking Gangster with my Starks jersey in '94

2. Jason Sehorn (New York Giants 1994-2002)

If you were my age and a Giants fan back in the late 90’s, you had a Jason Sehorn jersey. It seemed that every Giants game I watched, he had an amazing interception. In 1999, he was the leader of the phenomenal Giants secondary. His top moment in a Giants uniform: a game-sealing pick six against the Eagles in the 1999 Divisonal Round. It’s safe to say that Sehorn was the greatest defensive back in Giants history.

With Sehorn in February 2011

1. Paul O’Neill (New York Yankees 1993-2001)

Without a doubt, it’s “The Warrior.” Similar to John Starks with the Knicks, Paul O’Neill was the heart and soul of the Yankees. Of course he was a phenomenal ballplayer, but what was great about him was that he never gave away an at bat, no matter what the score. If he ever had a poor at bat, you would know it because there would be a broken bat in the infield with an opened gatorade cooler in foul territory. He was an irreplaceable player. There were countless times when he would come through in the clutch during a key playoff or World Series game: the game-ending catch in Game Five of the 1996 World Series when he was playing with a pulled hamstring, the 10 pitch walk in the ninth inning off Benitez in Game One of the 2000 World Series, his lead-off single in the ninth inning off Kim in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series. Just too many to count. In the final home game of the 2001 World Series, Yankee fans paid tribute to O’Neill during his final innings at Yankee Stadium (even though the Yanks were losing). All 56,000 fans were chanting his name as he took right field for the final time. O’Neill meant everything to Yankee fans. Just a true hard-nosed, blue collar ball player.

So there’s the list. Sometime in the next two days, we will hear sammywestside’s top 10 favorite New York athletes. Also, feel free to list your top 10. We would love to hear who were your favorite players are as well.

2 Responses to “Top 10 Favorite New York Athletes”

  1. sammywestside Says:

    The cool thing about my list is all ten people are different…

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