Without a doubt your issue of April 17 was the greatest in a long line of superb efforts. The color photos and coverage of the Masters, the NBA Eastern Division playoffs and the forthcoming baseball season have to rank as classics. For a change, even your predictions sounded accurate, especially the one about St. Louis.
That was a Baseball Issue? The interested fan had to dig deep to find coverage on the sport. I suppose any year Nicklaus does not win the green coat at Augusta that is news and justifies a lead article. I don't even mind the second story on how the 76ers pushed the Celtics around. After all these years of Boston domination, Philadelphia deserves some publicity. But those eight anemic pages of scouting reports for the 20 major league baseball teams defy reason. Why, a Baltimore rooter could easily miss your brief mention of the colorful, explosive Orioles, who are surely the biggest diamond attraction this season.
DONALD M. LYNNE
Your form charts and analyses of the 20 major league teams added up to a grand slam. Despite the fact that I've been a Pirate fan since the Greenberg Gardens, I subscribe to your statement that the 8-to-5 odds on the Bucs are out of line. The Pirates hit over their heads last year, and even if they do it again this year they can't get enough runs to overcome the earned runs given up by the pitchers and the unearned runs given up by inept fielding and no catching Even Maury Wills won't help, because he won't be running as much as he should. Mix in a little overconfidence and you have disaster in the Steel City. Somebody better keep an eye on the Cardinals.
J. D. DONATELLI
I fail to see why you must continually underrate the Cleveland Indians. It seems your most cutting phrases are always saved for the Tribe (if they are not already reserved for the Browns in the fall). In your Baseball Issue you predicted that the Cleveland club would not finish high in the first division. This may be true but third or fourth place is not out of reach. You also stated that neither Gus Gil nor Larry Brown figures to hit .250, but how many other shortstops and second basemen do, besides McAuliffe, Fregosi and Aparicio?
You then continued to knock the hitting by saying that neither Joe Azcue (.275) nor Duke Sims (.263) is a threat to win the batting championship. They just happen to be the two best-hitting catchers in the American League. How could you say what you did?
CARL FAZIO JR.
The Boston Celtics have finally been dethroned (The New Spirit of the 76ers, April 17). The Philadelphia 76ers are indeed a great team and deserving of a championship. To be champions a team must beat the best, and in defeating the Celtics the 76ers have certainly done that. But no one can take away from the Celtics what they have accomplished. They won eight straight world championships, and nine in 10 years. No team has ever approached that record, and chances are no team ever will.
The era of the Celtics may have ended, but their glory lingers on.
J. J. CICERRELLA
Notre Dame, Ind.
Congratulations to Frank Deford for a well-written article. It was a fine tribute to a great, proud Boston team and to Philadelphia's new champs.
But let's hope the 76er fans learn to give credit to other teams as well as to their own for good basketball play.
DOUGLAS R. COOKE
I bitterly resent Mr. Deford's alluding to the great Boston fans as frenzied, fair-weather friends and mental midgets. After the disgusting "animal show" in Philadelphia in the fifth game of the series, Boston fans can be considered first-class in comparison. Please cancel my subscription.
I would like to add some clarification to a remark Frank Deford made about the Boston fans. Those people who booed the Celtics and Coach Russell are not the real fans. They are known as playoff people. The only games they ever go to are the playoffs, and that is only because they know somebody who can get them tickets. The true fans are the ones who go to as many regular season games as possible and wait in line for hours to get playoff tickets. They back the Celts 1,000%. To them the Celts are No. 1 and will remain that way forever.
West Roxbury, Mass.
I found Dan Jenkins' report on the Masters (A Glory Day for Gay, April 17) wretchedly unfair to the new champion, Gay Brewer. In the opening paragraph Jenkins refers to Brewer as a man "who has been strolling along on the PGA tour for 10 years achieving no more of an identity than, oh, Julius Finsteraaron." Now, how cutely contemptuous can one be? Certainly an SI reporter must know Brewer's record belies such stupid commentary. But even more fatuous is Jenkins' failure to grasp the big drama of the Masters. It was not Hogan's 66, although that was wondrous. It was, rather, the first mano a mano I can recall in any Masters: i.e., the match between Nichols and Brewer, competing as playing companions. It was not Venturi in the clubhouse, transfixed and unbelieving before a TV set as Arnie birdies 17 and 18 to win; nor was it Player fidgeting before the same set as Arnie makes a 6 on the 18th to give away the Masters. It was Gay Brewer, rising like some phoenix from last year's ashes, who created the drama in the 1967 Masters.
Julius Finsteraaron? My goodness, Mr. Jenkins!
The last column of your article about the Masters is now stained by a few tears from an unsentimental bogey shooter who didn't even cry at The Pride of the Yankees. A wonderful tribute to a wonderful sportsman—Ben Hogan.
Alfred Wright's article on the foreign players in this year's Masters (The World Comes to Augusta, April 10) was excellent. I attend this great tournament every year, and I know what it is to see and talk to these great golfers. How moving it was to see 18-year-old Bobby Cole of South Africa drive with the likes of Nicklaus and Palmer. After following him in this year's rounds I'm inclined to agree with Gary Player that he will truly be a superstar one day.
A foul was committed in the third part of your series on Bill Hartack (A Hard Ride All the Way, March 27 et seq.), and I believe that, on second thought, the first one to admit the foul would be the jockey himself.
Discussing his feuds with officials and the press, Hartack stated, "I was on a horse [First Fair] for Arnold Winick at Tropical Park, and I said the horse was unsound. The stewards and the veterinarian didn't believe he was unsound. They ordered him back to the paddock, and the people booed me something terrible. They finally got a jock, Buck Thornburg, to ride him, and he ran terrible.... Where was the educated, intelligent press then? The press that's going to print the truth, tell the facts? Where were they at? Beautiful. Beautiful people."
What would an educated, intelligent, beautiful newspaperman do in a case such as this? I would say he would leave the press box, go to the jockey room and interview Hartack, despite his known aversion to speaking to reporters during the afternoon. Then the reporter would watch the race, return to the jockey room and interview Hartack again. Then he would interview Thornburg, the stewards, the track veterinarian and Mr. Winick, the trainer.
That, at least, is what I did, and I wrote three stories [in The Miami Herald] that tell, I believe, the full story of the First Fair episode—contradicting A Hard Ride All the Way. The first, which appeared under the headline HARTACK'S SORE—SO WAS HORSE, told the story as Hartack tells it—the way it happened. Nine days later I wrote a brief piece under the headline VET SCRATCHES HARTACK HORSE, which noted that Hartack was keeping the veterinarians on their toes: "Hartack was scheduled to ride Cain's Abel, favorite in Monday's fifth race in a field of nine. But the track veterinarian took no chances with Hartack.... He scratched Cain's Abel three hours before post time."
During the weeks that followed, First Fair did not put in an appearance on the racetrack. When he did I interviewed Winick again. Here is an excerpt from my third column, which appeared April 17, 1962 under the headline MEET DR. WILLIAM HARTACK: THE BOY WITH X-RAY EYES:
"Last week, Owner-Trainer Arnold Winick brought First Fair back to the races for the first time since the controversial incident. The 6-year-old roan finished fourth in his initial outing but galloped home a three-length winner Saturday.
" 'Did you find anything wrong with First Fair after Hartack refused to ride him?' Winick was asked.
" 'X-rays showed that he had a hairline fracture of the sesamoid,' the young trainer replied."
Perhaps I had an edge on my fellow newspapermen in this case, because Bill Hartack and I have always gotten along well and I am an admirer of his honesty and of his determination to do what he believes is right, regardless of the consequences. But here, I submit, is an exception to Hartack's "rule" of indifference, ineptitude or even lack of integrity on the part of the press as it appears in this article.
The Miami Herald
I have read the three-part series on "Sir William of Hartack," and the only thing that I take exception to is Sir William's reference to a group of nice people who are being maligned. I am referring to the jocks' agents, who don't deserve the comments made by a bitter young man. He says, "I guarantee that in the 15 years I've been riding I've had fewer agents than some of the riders in the top 20." How wrong can he be? I can list 24 jocks' agents who have had Hartack's book from 1953 to 1967, and there are about half a dozen others whom I can't think of at this time. Among the names are some of the top men in the profession and, believe me, it is a profession. I don't think there has ever been a jockey who has had even half as many agents as Hartack has.
Director of Racing
The Maryland Jockey Club
While I agree with you that All-America teams, all-stars and the like are at best good discussion-stimulators and at worst indicative of next to nothing, I must take issue with your choice of Mike Nykoluk's case to prove your point (SCORECARD, April 10). As an avid Hershey Bear fan for more than 10 years, I can appreciate the reasons that caused the American Hockey League coaches to elect Nykoluk as the MVP while not electing him to the first-team All-Star berth. Nykoluk is certainly no slouch as a center, but his value to the Bears is based on the fact that he is the best penalty-killer in the AHL and, perhaps, in any league.
It is entirely possible that Labossiere is a better center than Nykoluk and is thus deserving of his first-team selection. But, adding his center play and penalty-killing together, Nykoluk is far more valuable to the Bears than is Labossiere to the Quebec Aces. I think the AHL coaches should be commended for their attempt to make each award meaningful and indicative of what it stands for.