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Ten greatest athletes in Milwaukee sports history

Yahoo Contributor Network
YCN Greatest Athletes Milwaukee. Yahoo! Sports photo illustration.
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Robin Yount, Warren Spahn, Ray Allen. Yahoo! Sports photo illustration.

Editor's note: YCN contributor Dave Radcliffe has compiled his list of the 10 greatest athletes for Milwaukee. Hank Aaron easily claimed the No. 1 spot in user poll voting. Complete results are to the right.

[Vote for No. 1: Baltimore | L.A. | Philadelphia | San Francisco | Complete series]

When you think of historic legacies in sports, the city of Milwaukee typically doesn't come to mind. It only supports two professional sports franchises and has just two championships to its name -- the 1957 World Series (Milwaukee Braves) and the 1971 NBA championship (Milwaukee Bucks).

But in Milwaukee, you'll find some of the most passionate fans in the country despite its "small" population. Nobody rallies around a surging team better than the city and surrounding area of Milwaukee.

Because of Milwaukee's small-market status, fans feel a true connection to the players. Many beloved figures have come through Milwaukee to play basketball and baseball, dating all the way back to the early-1950s.

To narrow the list down to the top 10 professional athletes in Milwaukee's history is no easy task, but we'll lay down some ground rules to help the cause:

- The athlete must have played a majority of his career in Milwaukee (so long Rollie Fingers).

- It's not all about numbers -- were these athletes truly loved by their fan base as well?

- These are athletes that played in Milwaukee, not those who were born there.

- Even though the Green Bay Packers used to play some of their games at County Stadium, you won't see any football players on this list.

With the criteria noted, let's determine the greatest athletes to ever play for the Braves, Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers. First, some players that just missed the cut.

Honorable mention: Junior Bridgeman, Prince Fielder, Jim Gantner, Teddy Higuera, Johnny Logan, Jon McGlocklin, Glenn Robinson, Ben Sheets, Gorman Thomas, Brian Winters

Now, the main event.

Henry Aaron (Braves, 1954-65; Brewers, 1975-76)
We all know that Hammerin' Hank Aaron is the true home run king, and he was one of the most-beloved athletes to ever play in Milwaukee. Aaron also played his final two years in Milwaukee with the Brewers and hit 420 of his 755 career home runs in Brew City. His No. 44 is retired by the Brewers.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Bucks, 1969-75)
OK, so he's an exception to the rule about playing most of his career in Milwaukee.

Kareem may go down in history as a Lakers great -- but he's partly responsible for putting the Bucks on the basketball map. In 1971, the legend led the Bucks to their lone NBA title, an NBA Finals sweep over the Baltimore Bullets. In his Bucks career, Kareem totaled 30.4 points per game to go along with 15.2 rebounds per game while leading the league in scoring his first three seasons and winning an MVP trophy.

Ray Allen (Bucks, 1996-2003)
The consummate professional, the Bucks lost a lot of loyal followers when they decided to ship Allen to the Seattle Sonics. Ten years later, he's still getting it done and his game-tying 3 in the NBA Finals saved the Miami Heat from elimination. Allen helped lead the Bucks to the Eastern Conference finals in '01 and averaged 19.5 points per game in over six years with Milwaukee.

Ryan Braun (Brewers, 2007-present)

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Some fans altered their Ryan Braun jerseys after news of his suspension. (AP)

His selection here is bad timing given the 65-game suspension he received last week. However, the second active player to make the list, Braun was the player that helped push the Brewers to contender status immediately following his call-up in '07. In his seventh season with the Crew, Braun is already fourth on their all-time home run list (211), and he is committed to playing in the city -- he's signed through 2020.

[Related: Aaron Rodgers feels betrayed by Ryan Braun]

Lew Burdette (Braves, 1953-63)
It's difficult not to include the MVP of the lone World Series title in the city's history, especially when he played the majority of his career in Milwaukee. Burdette went 3-0 with a 0.67 ERA in the '57 Series, tossing two shutouts and three complete games. He also put together a stellar career with the Braves, winning 173 games in 10-plus years with Milwaukee.

Eddie Mathews (Braves, 1953-65)
A member of the 1957 World Series team, Matthews played 13 of his 17 seasons in Milwaukee and was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1978. Matthews was a nine-time All-Star and the only player who played in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta as a member of the Braves. He finished with 512 career home runs and is considered to be one of the best third basemen to ever play.

Paul Molitor (Brewers, 1978-92)
The Ignitor may have had a sultry breakup with the Brewers, but he will always be remembered for what he accomplished in Milwaukee. His 39-game hitting streak in 1987 is the seventh longest in MLB history, and Molitor is also a member of the 3,000-hit club. His No. 4 was retired by the Brewers, and he is one of just two players to be enshrined in the HOF as a Brewer.

Sidney Moncrief (Bucks, 1979-89)
There are several names in Bucks' lore that come up before Moncrief, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, but neither spent the majority of their NBA careers in Milwaukee. Moncrief, whose No. 4 was retired by the Bucks, played 10 of his 11 seasons in Milwaukee, was a five-time All-Star, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year recipient, and led the Bucks to the playoffs each season.

Warren Spahn (Braves, 1953-64)
Spahn, the fourth and final Brave to make this prestigious list, was the greatest hurler to ever play professionally in Milwaukee. Despite missing three years due to his military service in World War II, Spahn racked up 363 career victories and had a career ERA of 3.09. He was a Cy Young winner, 14-time All-Star and surefire Hall of Famer following his remarkable 21-year career.

Robin Yount (Brewers, 1974-93)
The Kid is hands down the greatest to ever put on a Brewers uniform and will always be revered for playing his entire 20-year MLB career in Milwaukee. He's the only player to record his 3,000th hit with the Brewers, he's the all-time Brewers' leader in home runs, and he led the franchise to its only World Series appearance. He's one of just four players in MLB history to win the MVP at multiple positions.

Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.

You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.

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