THE ARMS RACE
Mark Mulvoy's story on sore-armed pitchers (Sore Spots in a Big-Arm Year, Aug. 26) makes several valid points. However, his condemnation of management as the primary cause ignores an even more culpable force, the disappearance of the minor leagues.
Today, with a handful of minor leagues and many playing abbreviated schedules while carrying swollen rosters (up to 40 men), the opportunity for a pitcher to develop fully before being called up to the big leagues (where expansion demands many more hurlers) is sadly curtailed.
In my day as a professional (1947-50) there were 59 minor leagues, all playing full schedules and carrying normal player complements. The typical club would have seven pitchers for a 140-or 148-game schedule. There was ample work for all hands. No pitcher would be called on to work more innings in one season of intense big-league competition than he had in two or three seasons of minor league ball.
Dick Groat once said that he regretted having had no minor league experience because he was deprived of the opportunity of learning how to play every day before reaching the major leagues. Substitute "learn to pitch every four days over a full season" in Groat's statement and the key to permanently damaged pitching arms will be as apparent as should be its underlying cause—a culture and economy that allow little room for minor league baseball.
LLEWELLYN WATTS III
September 8, 1968
•The author of The Fine Art of Baseball, among other writings, Lew Watts speaks with authority about pitching and sore arms. After his release from the Navy he was a minor league pitcher for four seasons until bursitis ended a promising career.—ED.
Mark Mulvoy's article revealing how young promising pitchers are being exploited by the major league managerial hierarchy illustrates a topic that should be more critically publicized than it has been in the past. This is the appalling waste of human resources, whether it be in athletics or elsewhere, which very often becomes forgotten in the considerations of economy, massive planning, public show or in the overburdening desire to preserve material wealth.
These young men who devote their talents to baseball and who have much to offer are finding their worthy expectations being dashed by an early unfortunate experience, all of which makes the game appear as a thankless taskmaster. America's national pastime was never intended to appear in that light. Yet, on the page following Mulvoy's piece, we see Joe Namath, whose ailing knees receive all of football management's loving care, despite a high salary, and whose ego is even boosted by mink (Jet-Age Slow Brummell). Maybe these young deserving pitchers are in the wrong profession?
THE RAMS AND MRS. RYAN
A faithful SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reader since the magazine's birth, I can't recall enjoying an article as much as Alfred Wright's A Big Lift Toward the Title (Aug. 19), a perfect blend of fact and fancy. Let's have more of Wright.
WILFRIED N. ESCHHOLZ
It was such a tiny little error, and it probably didn't bother anybody in the world but me, but then I admit to being notoriously sensitive about such slipups as erroneously ascribed interceptions.
In the August 9 preseason game between the Cleveland Browns and the Los Angeles Rams, the Ram comeback was indeed inspired by an Eddie Meador interception, but not of a Ryan pass. Frank Ryan was watching the proceedings from the sidelines, as I trust Alfred Wright was also.
A football season brings a quarterback's wife her husband's share of interceptions, so please, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, I don't need any complimentary extras.
JOAN (MRS. FRANK) RYAN
San Diego 35, the powerful L.A. Rams 13. Cincinnati 19, Pittsburgh 3. After 15 games the AFL led the NFL by 10 games to 5, and you guys didn't even mention it!
The NFL superiority myth is over. It's a big story. How about it?
I am writing this letter to reassure all football fans that the fans of the Rams are not worried about their loss to Dallas. Because I know, as I'm sure everybody else knows, that the Rams will be the NFL representative in the Super Bowl. So don't think that the Rams are down and out, just wait till January. Oh yes, you AFL people, you've beaten some teams, but you will find out why the Rams are superior.
Garden Grove, Calif.
BACKWARD AND FORWARD
Your article on Paul Elvstrom (The Sailor Who Owns the Wind, Aug. 19) brought back memories. During the tune-up period for the Olympic sailing on the Bay of Naples in 1960, I stopped at the harbor where two other classes were berthed, the Finn and the Flying Dutchman. Because some of the Finns had not yet been rigged, the participants of that class had to share the available boats.
There was a long finger pier parallel to the concrete breakwater separated by 15 to 20 feet of water. The wind was blowing parallel to the pier and breakwater at 10 knots. One of the participants was just coming in, and another, Elvstrom, waited on the corner of the pier, deep in the throat of this narrow stretch of water. Elvstrom fended the incoming boat off and held it alongside, while its helmsman climbed ashore. Then in one motion Paul pushed the Finn backward, jumped on the small bow, ducked under the boom, backed the sail perpendicular to the wind, using his body against the boom while he grabbed the tiller extension. He sailed the small boat backward for fully 75 to 100 feet, spun it on its ear and went out of the harbor.
This was no grandstand play. I doubt if anyone else saw this amazing feat of catlike balance and agility. It is not impossible to sail a boat backward for a few feet, but never have I seen it done for such a distance in such tight quarters on a one-man boat. It would have been far safer to walk the small hull out of the pocket, but that was the slow way. Indeed, Paul Elvstrom is fantastic.
CLAUDE L. KOHLER
1960 Olympic Yachting Team
In response to Mr. Goodman and Mr. Donnelly, who wrote with pointed questions about horse racing (19TH HOLE, Aug. 26): first, let me say that I am neither Establishment nor very wealthy. Nor am I a rabid gambler.
Mr. Goodman hit on the answer when he mentioned the "beautiful" horses. What I love is the beauty of the sport and the horses. It has a special beauty for those who wish to see it. There is an awesome beauty in the sight of a Dr. Fager demolishing his field...or the beauty of courage as two horses drive neck and neck, giving more than mere whips could ever force out of them...or the beauty in the flaky showmanship and conceit of a Native Diver.
The personal mystique of the rich? Can Mr. Goodman buy himself a football team? Yet no doubt he enjoys the sport. And senseless? Most sports, examined objectively, are rather stupid. Where is the point in abnormally tall adults running around in what looks like their underwear trying to throw a ball through a hoop? (Incidentally, I very much enjoy basketball.)
Today the emphasis is on speed. That's just the way it is. Personally, I have never been able to understand why a horse who runs 1¾ miles slowly and ¼ mile fast should be rated over a horse who runs seven furlongs fast, though many persist in doing so. Tracks are harder and faster today, causing faster speeds, but, naturally, more injuries. Don't blame the horses—blame the tracks. And weight — any top horse can carry 140 pounds, if his competition is carrying comparable weights. The important thing is the spread that a horse must concede.
As for rating the horses of today—Mr. Donnelly is quite right in scorning money-winnings as a criterion. The two useless rulers in rating horses of different eras are earnings and timing. The only way to rate horses of today with those of yesterday is by their style of winning, and the final judgment must be left to time. In the past few years Kelso, Native Diver, Buckpasser, Graustark, Damascus, Dr. Fager and others have been hailed by more or less fulsome commentators as great. In the end only time (not timings) will tell. Let's come back in 50 years and judge.
San Bernardino, Calif.
I was shocked when I read in 19TH HOLE the comments that Mr. Eli Goodman and Mr. Bill Donnelly had about horse racing. I don't know how Mr. Goodman can fail to consider horse racing a sport. It's one of the most exciting in the field. In baseball, it doesn't take brains to hit a ball with a wooden stick. I'll bet the cavemen could have done it. As for football, to me it seems like a wild man's sport, with men piling up on each other.
I agree with him that gambling is what lures many to the track and that if there was no betting, few people would go, but he hasn't thought of some of the dedicated fans who don't care about winning or losing money but come to the track to see finely bred horses and topnotch jockeys duel against each other.
He also says that racing doesn't "invigorate the body and build character." I suppose he is thinking of the owners, who, he thinks, sit around and wait for money to fall into their laps. But what about the trainers, who spend their time and energy to teach a Thoroughbred the ways of racing; and the jockeys, who, every day, "invigorate the body" when holding horses back against their will or urge them forward down the stretch with all their strength? He is thinking of racing from the viewpoint of the spectator. He's right that he doesn't really get exercise. But think about professional baseball and football fans: they don't either.
To finish off, I think horse racing is the finest sport, so SI, don't stop writing about it.
TOOTH OF THE TIGER
In a letter printed in the 19TH HOLE of the August 26 issue, Mike Doyle stated that Willie Horton and Al Kaline lead the Detroit Tigers in hitting with averages of .274. He also implied that Denny McLain must be a phenomenal pitcher to have already won 25 games for a team whose best average is only .274. I don't see how anybody can be that stupid. The Tigers have tremendous power and lead the league in scoring runs. Granted McLain is a fine pitcher, but if he were on another American League club he would not be on his way to 30 wins.
According to Mike Doyle, Denny McLain has to look high and low for a run. But may I remind Mike that a team doesn't have to have high batting averages to score runs? As of August 23, the Tigers had scored a measly 525 runs to lead the American League and be second in the majors. This is a meager average of a little more than four runs per game. Poor Denny can stop looking for runs, he already has them.
Highland Park, Ill.
One reader argues that Denny McLain's success story was due primarily to his fantastic pitching. This reader quoted some Detroit batting averages, found only four hitters over .250 and stated, "That is hardly the kind of hitting to provide for a 25-3 record." Another reader based McLain's success on Tiger hitting. Who is right?
Here are the real facts: As of August 30, Detroit's team batting average with McLain as the starting pitcher was .248. The team's overall average was only .229.