Where is there any justice in disqualifying Dancer's Image on the basis of a urine test only to award the Derby to a horse that did not take a similar test (It Was a Bitter Pill, May 20)? How do we know what was or wasn't in Forward Pass's system?
DAVID B. JONES
•The Kentucky Racing Commission has now ruled that in all future stake races the first three finishers and a fourth horse, chosen by lot, will be tested.—ED.
I am sure that there are few people who are unaware of the fact that this year's Derby winner has been disqualified. Yet thousands of racing fans have been cheated. Churchill Downs is free and clear. It just pays the same purse to different people.
Let's have prerace testing at all major races in the future. Post-race tests take far too long—and they don't protect the bettor. Without the bettor, racing is dead. Prerace testing is not impossible or unfeasible. It has been done at one Ohio track for the past two years.
Racing is a great sport. But a few more incidents such as the one at this year's Derby and the public's confidence will be completely destroyed.
First Roberto de Vicenzo and now Dancer's Image! Is 1968 the year of the Grand Illusion?
C. T. FULLER
I thought you might be interested in an excerpt from a letter my daughter wrote about the Kentucky Derby. Each year SI describes it in all its social and traditional aspects. This, I think, is a charming and hilarious insight into another facet.
"Due to a mix-up we found ourselves in the infield and a veritable zoo. The founders of the Kentucky Derby would cringe in their gentlemanly graves, could they have seen the spectacle. There were 100,000 there, 'everybody who wasn't anybody,' according to a columnist. We just picked our way among the bodies. Everyone was drinking mint juleps. Most were stoned, having been there since the first morning race. They were in various states of undress, some were sunburned to a purple shade, chicken bones were rampant and you could see about five feet of track if you could stand upright between the sleepers and debris. Pictures would have been priceless—silver wigs, gold wigs, a lavender silk outfit with hot-pink accessories, a bared shoulder here and there.
"At post time everyone who could, stood. The hippies yelled the Anthem, and police with three-foot-long sticks strolled among the crowd—one old man just sat there chewing on his fried chicken. When the horses went off we never heard the P.A. system and didn't know who won until five minutes after the race. The romantic picture of Southern gentility has been shattered!"
So, SI, maybe you'd better look it over from another angle and tell it like it is—for some!
OUT OF THE BRICKYARD
Your article on Andy Granatelli and his turbine racing car (I've Got the Car Right Here, May 13) is a tribute to a dedicated gentleman of auto racing. But I believe it is also a tribute to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, one of only a few sporting magazines to give any worthwhile coverage of racing. I have been a big advocate of this sport for quite a few years, and it pleases me to know that someone is giving racing the coverage and exposure that is sorrowfully needed. Both Granatelli and SI are to be commended for their efforts to further the public awareness of and interest in this great sport.
Andy's account of the time he went on his head at Indy in 1948 is one of the most hilarious things I have read. However, there was one momentous occurrence that you passed over too lightly. That is Spider Webb's performance in the 1948 race. You recount that when Wilbur Shaw said, "Gentlemen, start your engines," Spider's wouldn't, and you let it go at that. The official statistics of the 1948 race show that Spider Webb completed 27 laps and finished ahead of six other cars that did not last even that long.
Blasted away from the starting grid, no doubt, by the sulfurous language of the irate Granatelli brothers, Spider Webb apparently accomplished the greatest feat of drafting in the history of auto racing. He deserves more recognition than you gave him.
Spring Valley, Calif.
You may term Lee Wilson a kook for coming up with ideas to change baseball and football (A Fast Pitch for a Faster Game, May 13), but, in all candor, we must all be kooks. What fan doesn't feel as though he can offer suggestions to speed up or streamline these events? I, too, have felt that way, about baseball in particular. Curiously, baseball, a sport more than 100 years old, has had fewer alterations than many games with less vintage.
Here's my pet plan. As with football, why not present a defensive and offensive lineup? Why should fans pay major league prices to see a batter up at the plate with less ability than someone sitting on the bench only because he fields a ball better? Conversely, why watch a lumbering elephant chase a fly ball while a gazelle lolls in the dugout? Baseball should present its best, offensively and defensively. It would make for more exciting and better-played games. In addition, it would extend the careers of the Mantles and Mayses because they would be able to hang around another two or three years as batters only.
But in spite of Lee Wilson and thousands like him, the baseball moguls in their ivory towers are so steeped in tradition that to think they will ever make any major changes in the game is pure folly.
JAMES F. GISMONDI
Re Lee Wilson: Get your tongues out of your cheeks. The man makes sense!
NELSON M. HOFFMAN
Dean, Florida Southern College
A magazine with the dignity of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED should not allow an author like Lee Wilson to write a word in it. The very idea of changing the format of baseball is ridiculous. Three-set baseball is absurd.
I've always felt that modern fighters had it on the oldtimers. But your attempt to solve this old controversy (cherished in many a pub) on the basis of some isolated camera shots (Reminiscent, Reliable and Revealing; April 22) is rather weak on evidence, and it is a great injustice to your young readers.
Now the oldtimers will have to dig up some awkward shots of Pep, Robinson, Louis and Marciano, and around and around we go again.
Your revealing article and pictures of the heavyweight fighters of the old days no doubt prove the poor quality of fighters in that era of the past.
I know every fact and every detail about the heavyweight boxing champions from John L. Sullivan to Cassius Clay. I've seen all the greats of the heavyweight division in action, men such as Jeffries, Johnson, Dempsey, Tunney, Louis, Marciano and Clay. I've noticed through the years that the fighters have greatly improved in their styles and boxing techniques. James J. Jeffries had no defense; he could only punch. Jack Johnson developed defensive fighting, such as getting out of range of a blow by throwing his head back (a technique used by Cassius Clay), the lost art of feinting, catching a blow in midair and throwing the left jab when retreating. Johnson was a master boxer of his time, but today he would be nothing of the sort.
Dempsey had a good left hook and would bull into his opponent, flailing away at the body until he saw an opening for the jaw. Jack was a fast starter and would throw caution to the wind, unloading all his bombs in the first few rounds. Today, however, if Clay faced Dempsey in a match he would dance and circle Jack, spearing him with darting lefts to the face. Dempsey would slow down after eight rounds (which he always did if he hadn't stopped his opponent by then) and Clay would cut him to pieces!
Tunney was the beginning of what we would term the modern boxer, yet, through the years, there have been other boxers who were just as good as or better than Tunney. Fighters like Charles, Walcott and Patterson were all excellent boxers who continued to be great fighters even when they were well past the age of 30.
The last three remaining great fighters were Louis, Marciano and Clay. They belong in a class all their own. Louis was a smashing puncher to the jaw and could box to a fair degree. Marciano was a crippling body banger who could also punch hard to the jaw. Rocky was also a smart fighter who could adjust himself to all sorts of boxing styles, overcome all obstacles and emerge the winner. Clay is the best boxer in all heavyweight history. His speed is incredible for one his size. He throws punches in bunches and can cut up his opponent just with his jab. Yet, despite Cassius' bulk, he is not a great puncher. The reason for this is simply that Cassius doesn't need to pattern himself after a puncher.