THEORIES AND MEMORIES
I don't usually find many profound theories on the pages of sports magazines worth commenting on, but an exception must be made in reference to your recent series of articles on Ted Williams (Hilling Was My Life, June 10 et seq.). There has never been a more detailed dissertation on hitting a baseball. The word "artistic" has often been abused, and has consequently suffered; however, in this instance, Ted Williams and John Underwood have proved beyond a doubt that hitting a baseball is indeed an art.
Ironically, the week that followed your final article saw the American League without a .300 hitter. There's something absurd about presenting a silver bat, symbolic of excellence, to a .280 hitter at the season's conclusion. Hopefully this can be averted if the theories of the Game's Greatest Hitter can be applied.
JOSEPH X. FLAHERTY
New York City
The series on Ted Williams took me home again to a boyhood in New England—a boyhood in which kids fought for the right to wear No. 9 on their uniforms. It was mowing the lawn or running errands only during the second, fourth and sixth innings of Red Sox games. It was rushing to a radio or TV set when Ted was at bat. It was going to Fenway Park early to watch him take batting practice and staying after the game hoping to see him as he drove away. It was a boyhood in which we didn't sneak cigarettes, because Ted didn't smoke.
Thanks to Ted Williams for a great boyhood, and thanks to SI for letting many of us go home again.
R. G. COLEMAN
Chapel Hill, N.C
August 4, 1968
I just read Duncan Barnes's article on Richard O'Connor (A One-fly Angler Who Always Travels Light, July 15). I am a professional football player with the Green Bay Packers and have tried my hand at a great many sports. Fly-fishing is one that I have always wanted to try but never had the opportunity to do so.
If Mr. O'Connor has the time I would appreciate any advice on rod, line, flies, etc. that I should buy, since I intend to tackle this sport next spring. In short, any help he can pass on would indeed be appreciated. And if he ever wants to take up my sport I'll be glad to give him some tips.
Green Bay, Wis.
THE BLACK ATHLETE (CONT.)
Your moving articles on The Black Athlete (July 1, et seq.) have a poignancy that goes deep for anyone connected even in the remotest way to sports.
My own link is as an English instructor at UT-El Paso, where I have had in my classes this past year seven of the 11 track athletes who lost their scholarships because they refused to participate at a track meet held at Brigham Young University on the Saturday before Easter.
You have told their story well, with this exception: these boys were hoping to be reinstated on the team for the fall semester 1968. Dr. John West, whom you quote in the third part of the series, arranged a conference between the athletes and the athletic director the week after the BYU incident. It was Dr. West's understanding and that of the athletes that their chance for reinstatement was very bright. However, on the last day of school, just before their departure from campus, the young men were informed by the track coach that they would not have their scholarships renewed.
As a result, a number of us started the Disassociated Students Fund. Our goal is to raise $4,000 for the students' tuition for 1968-1969 and to provide board and room in private homes. We feel there is a moral obligation to allow these young men to finish their education. They were, after all, protesting unfair conditions in the only way they could. Most of the fellows unfortunately are indigent and can get no help from their respective homes. Though all are working this summer, they must live on their salaries and cannot possibly save the amount necessary for tuition.
It has been my experience that most of these young men can succeed in college with a little care, a little interest on the part of the professor. Bob Beamon, for example, is as fine a young man as one could meet anywhere. He came to my office for help in English, from me or from my able student assistant, several times a week for the entire academic year. This action was voluntary on his part: he was handicapped by a weak background in English, and he wanted to learn. He has done so. His own sensitivity comes through in his writing as proved by his poem, which you quote in Part 3 of your series.
Bob and other boys who no longer have track scholarships do need help. We of the Disassociated Students Fund have worked hard at collecting money. But at this date we have only $300. I am off campus for the remainder of the summer, but Dr. Edward Leonard of the Political Science Department will take contributions, or one can contribute directly to the Disassociated Students Fund, P.O. Box 101, UT-El Paso, El Paso, Texas 79999.
Instructor, English Department
I have an idea for a system that might improve the Negro athlete's plight:
I. Arrival on Campus
A. Meeting with Guidance Counselor.
1) Laying out of tentative four-year program.
a) Program in writing with duplicate filed with office of guidance counselor.
b) All requisite courses underlined so student knows they are required.
B. Student assigned to Freshman Program on Frosh Problems, more likely Negro Guarantee in Student-to-Student or Man-to-Man program. Here he learns how to seek help.
A. The student who feels the need to have notes explained, etc. should have someone to study with for each subject.
1) This should be a person in his class.
2) This means an already organized group of tutorial or reading students (and what a great opportunity to put the dissatisfied to work on a problem they can solve).
3) The teacher in charge of the class should have a list of those in each class willing to participate, and these students should be given a title more apt than Reader.
4) Each Reader studies with a student, one-to-one.
5) Athletes will say there is not time, but if there's time for lonely card-playing, there is time for this student-to-student relationship.
III. Each day's work will consist of:
1) Rewriting and making more understandable the day's notes.
2) Reading pages of the next assignment, each to the other.
And why wouldn't a similar student-to-student program work in high schools?
JANET M. PALMER
A Mike Garrett can't cut it in an all Jewish fraternity at USC. How come Rafer Johnson could—and become student body prexy to boot—at UCLA?
A Junior Coffey gets the word not to date white coeds. Is this any worse than a low-income white kid being "asked" to stop dating the millionaire's daughter?
The Black Athlete presents a limited, subjective viewpoint. Like the angry young men it portrays it is a dubious asset to the cause of racial equality. Blacks often enjoy a marked advantage over whites in athletics. They are well-liked, sought after and deferred to because they are few in number, talented and somewhat different. But running the 100 in 9.1 does not qualify one for an executive position or earn one the plaudits of men—except at the track. Boycotting the Olympics for the benefit of blacks suggests children leading other children—backward.
Eagle River, Alaska
After reading four parts of The Black Athlete it has become very repetitious. I can't decide whether this Mr. Olsen is a sports-writer or a civil rights leader.
J. P. BONET, M.D.
Not only have you shot down the absurd and dangerous notion that sports got rid of prejudice, but your able series reveals with startling clarity the savage racism throughout our society.
You move us to do something about it. As a lawyer—though not a black one—I can do little in sports. But I can start to organize lawyers and judges to eliminate the blatant injustices that are the result of racism in the law—exact counterparts of the vicious manifestations you have shown us in the world of sports.
Mill Valley, Calif.
After reading two parts of Jack Olsen's story I, a black American, must sound off. As a writer and a "liberal white man," he probably thought he did a great thing by exposing the uncomfortable, unfair and often miserable life of Negro athletes. Yet SPORTS ILLUSTRATED with its "liberal mind" dares to print quotes as, "To the average Negro, perched way across there on the other side of the gulf, money is another country," and "Negro students arrive on campus talking another tongue; they cannot have a feel for the white man's English because they seldom heard it spoken."
I and thousands of Negroes understand English and speak it. How else could I read your article and write this letter?
You are the ignorant ones, along with many other whites who are brainwashed into thinking that you are the master race, not us underprivileged Negroes.
The moral of your Black Athlete series is an indictment of the educational processes in all parts of the country. Regardless of their athletic abilities, the great majority should never have gotten into, much less out of, high school. And the sports media has contributed to the conditions you cite, too.
As for the part on the Kansas football team banquet and Don Shanklin's thoughts on the true history of Dixie, as repugnant as slavery is, Shanklin and the rest should be damn glad their ancestors were brought over as slaves. Otherwise, instead of suffering through football at Kansas and other indignities they could be enjoying life in Biafra, Nigeria, the Congo or some other equally progressive, dignified African location. And, while they may not admit this publicly, deep down they know it.
FRED R. DAVIS
The black athletes have contributed much to the American sports world, and I am sure they will continue to do so with greater success in the future, because the public likes class and will pay to see it regardless of its color.
How hollow is the victory in the sports world when the best do not participate. Let us not have synthetic sports because of racism.
A. C. ALLEN
Long Beach, Calif.
In Part 3 Dave Lattin—Negro—was quoted as saying, "On the court you're groovy people, but off the court you're animals. Even the Mexicans look down on you." One wonders what prompts a person so obviously concerned with attaining interracial equality to say, "Even the Mexicans...."
Prejudice works two ways.
Mountain View, Calif.
I am a marine serving in Vietnam, and I just finished reading Part 1 of Jack Olsen's article. Out here, where it counts, a man is a man and treated equally as long as he does his job—no matter what color his skin is. I have even seen a Southern boy stand up and fight another who called his friend a "nigger." But still, as Mr. Olsen points out, men on both sides discriminate against one another. Didn't we fight World War II because a certain people claimed to be superior to others? Isn't that exactly what we do everytime we call a Negro "nigger" or any other such name?
Many of the men who die over here for freedom never knew freedom. True equality will never be had until the peoples of two different races can deal with thoughts in their minds concerning how much of a man that person is and not what color he is.
SERGEANT R. T. WILKINSON, USMC
FPO San Francisco
Such a complex problem cannot be resolved by a simple solution. The hiring of Negro coaches, which has been done in some schools, may help, inasmuch as it indicates good faith. Yet, more important than changes in the coaches' color are new purposes, insights and attitudes. Until the Negro student-athlete is regarded and treated as a normal human being with the needs, desires and aspirations similar to those of his fellow teammates, the shameful story will continue.
Also, although many coaches believe that their job is to win, yet somehow they must be made to realize that their first goal should be to help students—black and white—develop their potentialities. The tragedy is that many colleges and universities have been developing athletic talent at the expense of character and educational achievement. It is truly time for a change.
EDWARD L. JACKSON
National Athletic Steering Committee Tuskegee Institute, Ala.
Since stacking and quotas deprive superior black athletes of the representation on pro and college teams that their abilities demand, why doesn't some smart entrepreneur—white or black—form an all-black pro team? It would: 1) adjust the disproportion which the black athlete says exists, 2) offer economic opportunity to more deserving black athletes and 3) provide further self-identity to American Negro sports fans. But, then, someone might yell segregation.
Jack Olsen's excellent and revealing series should be must reading for every executive in major league baseball today. I especially recommend it to Commissioner Eckert's office, where black faces on a top brass level are still nowhere to be seen.
Isn't it time for the commissioner to hire an ex-ballplayer on the same level that Buddy Young occupies in the National Football League, if only to provide an example for the 20 clubs to follow in the future hiring of managers, coaches, scouts, publicity men, road secretaries, ticket officials, etc.?
Articles Editor, Good Housekeeping
New York City