A reader wrote us recently and began, "Not knowing if anyone will ever read this letter...." The writer might be pleased to know that almost everyone around here will read that letter or a copy of it. Someone has to, as a matter of policy, and the rest of us are endowed with the normal amount of human curiosity. There is no telling, after all, what the mail may bring. Jim Ryun's name first appeared in SI in the 19TH HOLE (page 75), and our readers have submitted countless suggestions for SCORECARD as well as candidates for FACES IN THE CROWD. A Softball controversy that raged in the letters column won us a Softball Writer's and Broadcaster's Association award in 1966. A letter from a Los Angeles reader challenging Richard L. Frey, publicity director of the American Contract Bridge League, and an Eastern team to a bridge match subsequently developed into an annual intercity competition.
Not long ago our curiosity was rewarded again when we gave full attention to this penciled communication from the Midwest: "Dear Sirs. My name is Clarke Hemphill. I am 12 years old and live at Oaklandon, Indiana. My father and I water race dogs. I doubt if you are familiar with the sport but you put a raccoon on a metal float and then let the dogs out of the box.... They swim after the raccoon on the float but there is no possible way for the raccoon to be caught.... I think it would make a very colorful cover story...the date is the weekend of the Forth of July." Master Hemphill's letter contained a diagram of admirable clarity, which helped us understand the rather mystifying phrase "water race dogs." After a couple of senior editors and the art and picture departments had given the suggestion their careful consideration, we opened negotiations with the young man and found him most helpful and efficient in the matter of arrangements and directions. His most recent communication ends, "P.S. Not trying to hog the camera or nothing but if you use it as a cover story we have a dog named Tiger who jumps from the box very well.... This is only a suggestion." Well, we took the suggestion, of course, and you should be seeing the pictures one of these days, although we can't guarantee that Tiger will make the cover.
Some suggestions are not as satisfactory to follow up. "Drop dead, you idiots," for example, or simultaneous recommendations that we a) stop running so much stuff on baseball and b) run more stuff on baseball. However, taking into account the fact that people are more apt to write letters when they are furious than when they are pleased, Miss Gay Flood, who handles the letters department, feels that our correspondents are an intelligent, lively and good-humored lot. We do get howls of protest (most often they involve football predictions), and every time we put a girl in a bathing suit on the cover we wait with interest to see what the proportion of approving college boys to infuriated mothers will be.
But, by and large, our letter-writing readers are constructive and informative. We have never been more aware of this than during and after our recent five-part series on The Black Athlete by Jack Olsen. Such a volatile subject might well have produced an avalanche of poison-pen letters. But though reactions and opinions varied greatly, the bulk of the letters were remarkably thoughtful, articulate and concerned.
August 25, 1968
So, please write. We really look forward to hearing from you.