After an ulcerating day at the office, a reader has a legitimate weekly right to expect to settle down to a comfortable breather with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. However, your February 11 SCORECARD carried an extremely disturbing piece of information. Heartlessly, without even a hint of a warning, you break the news that as a result of the deterioration of the New York Yankee farm system the future of the world champions may be seriously endangered.
After a nightmarish reading of this column, I lapsed into a deep seizure of despondency and depression. After all, is it not preordained that the Yankees must win not only the pennant but the World Series? How can we face diamond life with the Bronx Bombers finishing in second place? This would place an unbearable burden on any real baseball fan. Spare us from any further causes for hysterical weeping.
New York City
It is quite evident that you gentlemen don't know that there has been a change in the farm-system policy of the Yankees since Roy Harney and Ralph Houk took over as general manager and field manager from George Weiss and Casey Stengel. Hamey and Houk both said when they took over these jobs that one of their chief aims was to build up their farm system.
Since that time they have been doing just that. In 1962 their Fort Lauderdale club of the Class D Florida State League won the pennant. The players from this team were signed in the spring and summer of 1961 when Hamey and Houk's new policy was in effect, as it still is today. I'll admit that the 1961 edition of Yankee farm clubs wasn't so great, but that can be excused by the fact that almost all of the talent from these clubs was signed under the old regime.
February 25, 1963
What happened at Fort Lauderdale is indicative of what is going to happen to the Yankee farm system in the next four years. It usually takes five years to make a poor farm system into an A-1 type of system. By then the present Yankees might be a little old and then there will be some very good replacements to take over.
As one long-suffering fan, I would like to cheer loud and long for the new ruling on baseball's strike zone (SCORECARD, Feb. 4). The basic fabric of baseball has been consistently crumbling. It used to produce many exciting variations of sacrifices, bunts, steals and hit-and-run strategies. Each play was an exciting and breathtaking event, not a long, boring series of cheap 260-foot home runs.
The number of pitchers in modern baseball who can work 300 innings per season is constantly dwindling; and yet such men as Grover Cleveland Alexander, Cy Young, Ed Walsh and others used to work 400 innings in a season. Pitching should be a fine art, not an endless and boring drudgery.
This rule change could be the first of many such changes which would give the game back to the baseball fans of America.
E. ROY ELLINGWORTH
Santa Monica, Calif.
THROUGH A GLASS HIGHLY
The current king-for-a-day pole-vault situation is ridiculous. Instead of generating a contest to find a pole with the best slingshot qualities, let's go back to the aluminum one where an increase of an inch or two in the record was a true reflection of competitive progress.
Bad spills and marred vaults caused by splintering bamboo poles gave a valid reason for switching to aluminum. But no such reason exists for switching to the fiber-glass pole. If the fiber-glass pole can be justified, why can't finger grips for the discus, built-up shoes for the high jump and special-soled track shoes that will give enough bounce to shave 10 seconds off a runner's time for the mile be accepted as well?
F. C. WEIRICH
If the world pole-vaulting record gets any higher they will either have to make the indoor stadiums bigger or bar pole-vaulting from indoor track.
GERALD A. MILLER
•For an analysis of the fiber-glass pole by some of the world's best vaulters, see page 38.—ED.
Best-in-show honors to Peter Knoop for honest and factual information on How to Succeed at a Dog Show Without Really Cheating (Feb. 11). Peter Knoop was one of the best handlers in the business and never took advantage of his professional ability to make some amateur handler like myself appear out of place or in a noncompetitive position. His statement about "judging the other end of the leash" is certainly factual, and a keen observer of dog shows can readily see this psychological element at work if he carefully observes some judges in action. Anybody who has exhibited a show dog is familiar with the kind of judge who likes to give class placements to pretty girls, regardless of the qualifications of the dogs they are handling.
To have a judge tell you on a given day your dog is one of the best he has seen; and then two weeks later in another state tell you your dog has a bad gait or is out of coat or, worse still, not even give your dog his personal inspection when he is judging the group, is very frustrating.
ROLAND C. (DOC) MORROW
You keep on stating that Missouri Valley Conference basketball is the best there is. True as this may be, there is also a very high grade of basketball played in Philadelphia. La Salle, Villanova. Temple, Pennsylvania and St. Joseph's are very much underrated by your magazine. In the first four games played among the Big Five the largest margin of victory was only two points. This is the closest basketball in the nation.
Over the years I have been amused by correspondence from the midwestern and western backwaters indignantly complaining about your lack of attention to the feats of favorite athletic teams. Now, however, I have caught you in a real goof. How could you possibly have ignored the Bethesda Institute of Interior Decoration's fine basketball team? Admittedly a 5-5 record doesn't look good on paper. However, the Biddies' five losses were by a total of only 71 points, and their stunning upset of Chevy Chase College of Mortuary Sciences and Neurology was something that few teams have been able to accomplish this season. And I'm sure that even you fellows have heard of Jumpin' Jim Filvarin, our fine center, who is one of "the best under-five-fect players in basketball today.
Just like they say, you New York sports-writers are all alike.
WILLIAM C. BUSCH
As a falconer and austringer who has devoted some 30-odd years to the study, training and flying of birds of prey, I feel qualified to comment on Bil Gilbert's article Paean to a Winged Hunter in your February 4 issue.
While I thoroughly agree with most of the statements he has set forth, I disagree completely with his statement that "hawks are unintelligent creatures." On the contrary, I believe that certain species of hawks and falcons are very intelligent, and it is not instinct alone that guides and directs their actions.
There is reason to believe, however, that the intelligence quotient of the bird-eating accipiters and falcons certainly far exceeds that of the Buteos.
Time and time again during my experience with all kinds of birds of prey, I have observed sharpshin hawks beat the branches and leaves of trees harboring small birds, in order to frighten their quarry into the open and flight. I have watched Cooper's hawks, upon seeing quail at a distance, fly a circuitous route under the cover of trees and bushes in order to gain the advantage of a surprise plunge into their midsts—thereby enhancing their chances of securing a meal. I have never, I must admit, seen Buteos display any special traits that would lead me to believe they possess or need much reasoning power to subsist. Since the Buteo diet consists primarily of easily secured insects and mammals, they don't have to outthink their prey.
Gilbert does not mention an all-important factor in the unalterable process of conditioning and training of raptors that must be closely controlled. This deals with the weight of the bird of prey. Even though hungry, if the hawk or falcon is too "high" (overweight), that invisible bond of management that the falconer or austringer has over his winged charge is jeopardized or broken outright—with the possible loss of his bird.
The "flying" weight of a trained bird of prey is that optimum weight at which it performs the best and yet is still subject to its trainer's will. My trained peregrine (Aurora), which I have flown free for three seasons, flies strongly and eagerly at 29 to 30 ounces. She was trapped wild at an empty weight of 34 ounces. At 34 ounces, however, though very hungry, Aurora displays an arrogance and disdain which would make it foolhardy to fly her free at that weight. The various species of birds of prey have so many individual birds in each race of different sizes, however, that each bird must be flown at a weight best suited to its size and temperament.
HENRY T. SWAIN
Your article on Ed Jucker (The Coach of Every Year, Feb. 11) was only a melancholy story about an uneasy person who is described and regarded as a martyr of basketball. More emphasis should be placed on the team. We certainly believe that Mr. Jucker is a very good coach, but what coach wouldn't be if he had a chance to coach a team like that?
R. R. RUSSILLO
J. A. KENDRA
Santa Fe, N. Mex.
Congratulations on your fine article about the No. 1 Cincinnati Bearcats and their All-America coach, Ed Jucker. None of Cincinnati's basketball players is an All-America, but together they certainly constitute an All-America team.
OUT IN THE HALL
I would like to "have it out" with Mr. Don C. Jensen concerning his letter on the Hall of Fame (19TH HOLE, Feb. 11).
We owe a lot to athletes and coaches like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Jim Thorpe, Eddie Shore, Jesse Owens, Alonzo Stagg, Knute Rockne and many others too numerous to mention. They have done so much for the youth of America. Why not give them a lasting tribute for their grand efforts?
I sent my $1 to the National Football Foundation Hall oi Fame. I hope others do, too.
DAN C. WARREN
Mr. Jensen says that he thinks it rather childish to have Halls of Fame for different sports. Museums house historical things. Artists are honored in museums by their paintings. Why not have "museums" for sports?
He said that $2 million could be spent in a better way; I don't think it could be. There should be Halls of Fame for statesmanship, medicine, science, the arts, entertainment—and sports. And all should be established for the same reasons: as a memorial to the great ones and an inspiration to others to strive to surpass their achievements.
As a veterinary student, I was particularly delighted with John O'Reilly's story about Harmsted Chubb of the American Museum of Natural History (He Breathed Life into Old Bones, Jan. 21). My vacation periods in New York have always included a visit to Chubb's recreated skeletons of Sysonby, Lee Axworthy and their "stablemates" on the fourth floor of the museum.
Your readers might also like to know of the work of another man interested in the movements of animals. As early as 1887, Eadweard Muybridge photographed various animals in their natural gaits, and recently (1957) Dover Publications reprinted his photographs in a book, Animals in Motion.
FRANKLIN M. LOEW
FLORIDA FISH STORY
We were very much interested in Martin Kane's recent article on The Sailfish Club of Florida's efforts to put the emphasis on the fisherman's skill rather than boat handling (Something New in Fishing, Jan. 28).
Skillful indeed are anglers who average 8.7 minutes to boat sails with 20-pound test line. Trolling two outriggers, with the resulting automatic drop-back, to only one flat line, however, increases the chance of hooking the fish deep in the gills, drowning as well as tiring it while the fight is on. It seems unusual, though, that of the 131 sails caught in the Invitational Masters Tournament more were not what we call foul-hooked in the bony part of the mouth or bill on the first pass. This would have necessitated a much longer fight.
We troll only flat lines, two bonito-belly-strips for sails, one feather for more bonito, from a 21-foot boat with twin 35-hp kickers. Last Labor Day weekend, fishing from Langford Marina, St. Lucie Inlet in Stuart, Fla., we caught one 7-foot sail (45 minutes) and one 7-foot 8-inch (2 hours 20 minutes), the latter being foul-hooked on its initial pass. We use 4/0 reels with 30-pound monofilament, and the longer the fish lasts the better we like it. When that big gentleman came completely out of the water after two hours, however, we admit we thought he was having a bit the better of it. This is what justifies the many hours spent trolling the Gulf Stream during the off season when we natives can find room to fish.
If any readers have experience trolling deep for sails with live bait, we would like to hear from them.
ALBERT AND ELAINE MOORE
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Just lately I came across your January 7 article The ABCs of Squash Racquets. I agree wholeheartedly that squash is a unique sport in which you find entertainment as well as an opportunity to exercise flabby muscles and develop physical dexterity. However, I thought it might be interesting to note the similarities between squash racquets and fronton tennis.
Fronton tennis has the same characteristics as squash except that the right sidewall of the court doesn't exist. This gives the game a new perspective play, the so-called "bouncing-away ball" similar to jai alai, another Spanish ball game played successfully in Florida. This also facilitates the fans' observance of the game from suitable stands at ground level and makes construction of the court cheaper, too.
In Cuba BC (before Castro) it was one of the most popular outdoor sports and was played all year round. However, in Cuba the game gradually degenerated to the point where court measurements and equipment became totally different from the original formal regulations. We used regular tennis balls instead of the smaller, hard-bouncing ones and regular lawn tennis rackets. In fact, the game became so popular that sporting goods companies like Dunlop, Pennsylvania and others created a new line of heavier and more resistant rackets and balls better suited to fronton tennis. Court measurements grew to 20 meters (65 feet 7 inches) in length (twice as long as a squash court) and wider than the official 18-foot 6-inch squash court. These changes were adopted by the World Federation of Squash and Fronton Tennis for special tournaments, of which some were played in Havana between Mexico and Cuba. The game has also been played in Argentina and Spain. Scoring in fronton tennis is something like squash but a game is 30 points in doubles, 25 points in singles.
Thus, fronton tennis, either old style or in the Cuban modification, has the advantage of more facilities for the fans and cheaper construction. In the Cuban style, you don't need to buy special equipment, and of course if you play outdoors you will have the added advantage of a good suntan. It is especially wonderful to have a tennis fronton located near a beach.
There are not many sports like this: it doesn't matter how good or bad a player you are, or how young or old, you can always play and no need to be too careful. Hit the ball hard; it will most certainly bounce right back.
DR. OSVALDO VALDÉS
Thanks for the squash racquets. Now let's have a piece about squash tennis, a piece about racquets, a piece about court tennis and maybe one about "fives." I've never known which is which.