Earnshaw Cook has written a book utterly detrimental to baseball (Baseball is Played All Wrong, March 23). If all the teams used his proposed system, each coach would know exactly what the other team was about to do, the peanut vendors would start selling completed box scores before the game started and baseball would lose all its color and fascination.
If baseball adopts this system, I'm for a rousing, unpredictable game of chess!
There seems to me to be an obvious flaw in Earnshaw Cook's "Chances of Scoring" table. It is based, he says, on "750,000 actual situations that occurred over 10 years of major league play." But these situations included the very tactics he now would eliminate, such as the sacrifice bunt, the standard batting order and the go-as-far-as-you-can pitcher. Eliminate them and the scoring table is bound to change.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Mr. Cook's theory could lead to a very interesting paradox. What would happen if every major league team did away with the sacrifice bunt? When a player reached base the logical thing for the infielders to do would be to play deep and look for a double play. With the infield back, the sensible thing for the batter to do (especially if he is a speed merchant such as Maury Wills, Willie Davis, Luis Aparicio or Al Weis) would be to bunt.
April 6, 1964
Thus by eliminating the bunt Earnshaw Cook is creating a situation where the bunt would become popular. The bunt is here to stay.
I heartily approve of Mr. Cook's approach to baseball theory and strategy. I do find one major fallacy in his analysis, however, i.e., platooning the pitchers. It appears that Mr. Cook has overlooked the fact that there are two basic ways to win baseball games: 1) to score more runs than the opposition (the offensive approach that Mr. Cook's theory is based upon) and 2) to allow the opposition fewer runs than you score (the defensive approach, a la the '63 Dodgers).
Thus Mr. Cook's statistical argument for platooning pitchers in order to score 113 more runs per year does not attempt to account for the number of extra runs the opposition will score when the percentage-playing manager has to take out Sandy Kou-fax in the third inning after he has struck out nine straight men.
I can just see the want ad of the future: "Immediate opening for baseball manager. Must have experience in analogue and digital computer systems. Will participate in a computer program project. Will assume complete responsibility for team-guidance system of second-division major league team. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an ambitious man wishing to move to Boston."
R. W. CANAVAN
The whole idea is nutty. To think any percentage can apply, whether the batter is Mickey Mantle or Gino Cimoli, whether the pitcher is Sandy Koufax or Jim Duckworth, is asinine. The chances of getting a runner home from third are greatly altered when the pitcher has a cold or the batter had an all-night argument with his wife.
Thank goodness the game of baseball can never be reduced to adding-machine accuracy. It's much more fun this way.
SHARE A CUP
Coles Phinizy's article about our Livingston brothers' campaign to capture the America's Cup (Meet the Mad Livingstons, March 16) was the most humorous article I've read for some time. The first tentative chuckle became a real belly laugh by the time the article was read through—especially when I realized that everything your correspondent said is true.
However, more important than that is the fact that Americans can laugh at us and still regard us with affection, because in the near future, and long-term scheme of things, your country and ours are inevitably going to be drawn closer together.
In a world that has largely forgotten how to laugh, we can do with more literary gems such as this one, and if Phinizy is ever in Melbourne again I'd like to meet him and share a cup of tea (hot or cold). As they used to say during the last war, "Advance Australia fair and God bless Uncle Sam."
HAROLD C. REID
CROW A LA MODE
With UCLA winning the NCAA title in embarrassingly easy fashion (The Two-minute Explosion, March 30), may I inquire where your basketball "experts" Underwood and Deford have gone? To the Ladies'' Home Journal"? Not once during the season were John Wooden's fleet and gutty Bruins acknowledged to be the nation's best by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED or the other eastern experts, yet they humiliated Duke, inundated Michigan and blasted Kansas State twice in running up their 30-game win streak. Your Dec. 9 Scouting Reports favored an overrated NYU with an even more pitiably overrated Barry Kramer to win it all. UCLA barely merited a mention as the 29th best team in the land. And who are you picking for the World Series? Washington?
DAVE DEXTER JR.
A banquet will be held for the myriad scoffers of West Coast basketball; hosts Walt Hazzard and company will be especially pleased to entertain John Underwood and his fellow SPORTS ILLUSTRATED prognosticators. The entree will be crow.
I suppose the UCLAn fans will have a complaint or two but, looking back through your preseason basketball Scouting Reports, you seem to have acquitted yourself quite well—if you eliminate your No. 1 prediction for individualistic NYU. You hit Michigan (No. 3) perfectly, and Duke (No. 8) and Kansas State (No. 9) were reasonably close. And, indeed, champ UCLA proved to be a "surprise package"—as you labeled it. Villanova, Wichita, San Francisco and Loyola were all accurately tabbed in your predictive speculations. Congratulations on another reasonably sound predictive year.
As a 16-year-old golf fan and captain of my high school golf team (average score in the 75 bracket), I found a great comparison between Tony Lema's early life as described in your magazine (Survival Training for a Rookie, March 23) and my present life. When playing practice rounds, I sometimes play three balls: Arnold Palmer's, Jack Nicklaus' and mine. Always I seem to pull the upset.
My first taste of pressure came when I tried to qualify for the state high school championship. Just like Tony, I never slept the night before. Sure enough, the next day I blew up. Who knows, maybe I'll turn out to be another Champagne Tony. I sure hope so!
As one of the avid admirers of Gordie Howe, I would like to thank you for your great article on this fine athlete (The Who, What and Why of the Red Wings, March 16). However, I don't think you are correct in saying he is a one-man team. It is admitted that without Howe Detroit would be in serious trouble. When Howe retires, the NHL will lose the greatest hockey player in the world. But the administrators of our team have realized that Gordie will someday hang" up his skates. They have begun reaping the harvest of their minor league crop, with rookies like Pit Martin, Doug Barkley, Paul Henderson, etc.
Being only 29 years old, I've had to listen to an awful lot of oldtimers tell stories about the alltime greats like Cobb, Ruth, Red Grange, Bobby Jones, etc. who are almost legendary. It's a pleasure, as a hockey fan, to realize that the greatest hockey player of all time is playing right now. Even at the age of 35 (old for hockey), Gordie Howe continues to amaze me with some of the plays he makes and goals he scores. Hats off to a fine article and a fitting tribute to a fine man, a great player and a real credit to sports, and a real example to any aspiring young athlete of any sport. I enjoy all of your salutes to our modern-day greats (the Cousys, the Musials, the Palmers, etc.) because I get just a little tired of hearing about the oldtimers and how great they were.
ROBERT J. KOTT
Being in the fisheries research field, I was glad to see your article on marine sport fish research (A New Look into the Sea, March 9). However, it does include one statement which I believe should be corrected, i.e., that Atlantic coast yellowtail have nearly disappeared. Actually, yellowtail abundance dropped sharply in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the catch dipping as low as 12 million pounds in 1954. In subsequent years it has recovered remarkably; the 1963 catch of about 75 million pounds was the largest ever.
'FRED E. LUX
Bureau of Commercial Fisheries,
U.S. Dept. of the Interior
Woods Hole, Mass.
I must take issue with the opinion expressed by Dr. Theron L. Hopple (19TH HOLE, March 9). Although it may be "painfully obvious" to Dr. Hopple that Communist countries are using the Olympic Games for propaganda, it is even more painful to consider giving government aid to athletics.
The U.S. Olympic Committee's attitude is not "decadent." The attitude of those who wish to convert our athletes into tools of the Cold War, whose only mission in life is to win for the fatherland, is what is truly decadent. Government control of sports would drive those who compete for the love of sport out of organized competition.
New York City
What is the real beef? All this moaning about the Winter Olympics has me puzzled.
Eighth place is not a very high standing for the United States in the Winter Olympics, but I can't see that it matters much since the Olympics are supposed to be an individual testing, not an international scoring race. We did outstandingly in the Alpine events—for the first time we are a real power here. We can't always count on a lucky combination to do well in the hockey events. We have no reason to think of ourselves as a real contender in the speed skating, bobsled, Nordic or luge events as there are very few facilities in the United States upon which to build gold medal winners. Our status in figure skating has been explained and explained. I personally think that the United States team in Innsbruck was something of which to be proud. Their best efforts stacked against the best efforts of other winter sportsmen, pretty accurately reflect general United States interest and proficiency in the various sports represented.
Some people seem to wish to have our government start manufacturing athletes, and there are several private plans for making money available in order to do what is called "train and organize" our teams. Well, I'm all for Mr. Brundage and his ideas regarding the true nature of an amateur and his long effort to keep the Olympics for such amateurs. The concern could very profitably be channeled into more and better sports facilities for everyone. This is what makes more gold medal winners.
The nature of competitive sport insures a will to win in our Olympic team members. We seem to be telling them that they have to win, if not for themselves, for their country. Pretty shabby, says I, to handicap fine athletes in such a way. Here's hoping that our attitude toward the games in Tokyo will be better.
JANET K. FALES