Your recent article, Leo's Bums Rap for the Cubs (June 30), truly presents a group of bums. These people aren't sports enthusiasts, but attention-getters. Intimidating and abusing members of the opposing teams certainly do not constitute good sportsmanship. You should cheer for your team, not against the opposing team, as these people do. Just the other day in Chicago Mudcat Grant was obliging the fans in left field by signing autographs. He was hit in the face by a rubber ball. He was not injured seriously, but he could have been. This is just one example of how these fans could jeopardize the livelihood of the athletes in order to have a good laugh. A lot of people have been saying that athletes have been ignoring their fans. With these kinds of fans, who can blame them?
The personalities of Cub bleacherites vary, depending on which section of the bleachers they sit in. The so-called left-field Bleacher Bums are fair-weather fans. The true loyalist who suffered while receiving his suntan lying amidst the cozy and sparsely populated surroundings in the pre-Durocher days never saw the uncouth elements now frequenting the noisy left-field stands. They would have spoiled the peacefulness, tranquillity and hopelessness of it all. They definitely are from the wrong side of the tracks, bleacherwise.
The rightfielders are too infiltrated with tourists or apathetic salesmen, in shirts and ties yet, who are closest to the Addison-Sheffield exit and who are primed to run for the next El half a block away following the final out.
Contrasted to these groups are those in center field, especially in the last three or four rows of the bottom section, near the men's room. These have the true class and are the most astute fans. Here one can observe the pitches and is literally in a position to take issue with ball and strike decisions. This center-field group suffered through the Bertells, Hobbies, Wills, Wallses, Drotts, Koonces and the like until Durocher came along.
As one who became a paying Cub fan as a very small boy and who suffered through 20 straight second-division finishes, I would like to inquire of the Bleacher Bums and the other new breed Cub fans as to where they were just a few years ago. They certainly weren't in the bleachers or any other part of Wrigley Field.
But a few of us, tortured with defeat and frustration as we were, kept the faith. We knew that someday we would overcome. Finally 1967 dawned, and the years of darkness ended. It is doubtful whether anything—even a world championship for our Cubbies this year—will ever surpass the ecstasy experienced by the faithful that wonderful summer when our boys returned to the first division and respectability.
And then, presto gumbo. An obnoxious, raunchy, baseball-uniformed group of boorish wagon climbers and exhibitionists, the self-proclaimed Bleacher Bums, became the darlings of the press and the Cubs' "loyalest fans." This group, who until a couple of years ago probably thought a bleacher was something one put in an automatic washer, is now the exalted ruler of Clark and Addison Streets.
Do you really want to know who are the best baseball fans in Chicago? They're the handful of loyalists who, without promise of status, still venture out to Comiskey Park to watch the forgotten, forlorn Sox. They're like us of the real Cub faithful.
WILLIAM E. CARSLEY
After reading Quitting Is the Name of Any Game (June 30), by Frank Deford, I was tempted to cancel my subscription to SI and hold a tearful press conference. However, on second thought I would then be forced to give up my favorite autumn sport—becoming irritated at college football articles by Dan Jenkins
I wouldn't blame Frank Deford's wife if she really quit on him. It may be all right to pick on Ken Harrelson, Donn Clendenon or even Joe Azcue, but picking on Mickey Mantle is the worst thing he could do. He's accusing Mickey of timing his retirement just so the Yankees could sell a few season tickets. Don't you think that after 18 years of broken bones, chips and other serious injuries he should retire? Or should he play until, like Lou Gehrig, he dies?
NEEDLES AND PILLS (CONT.)
I generally agree with Bil Gilbert (Problems in a Turned-on World, June 23 et seq.), except for two small points. First of all, Mr. Gilbert says that athletes are "trying to get something from the drug which hey do not naturally have." He also says that drugs are used to "alter the body of the user." I believe that drugs are not used to give an athlete what he does not have, but to bring out what he does have.
As a high school runner, I have learned that there is one thing that separates me from what I am doing and what I could be doing—pain. I have done a 4:28 mile, but physically I probably could do around a 4:20 or possibly better. What a drug does is to mask pain so that an athlete can come closer to what he physically can do and make it so he is not limited to what he mentally can do. The object of a race is to push oneself to the point of exhaustion, but, except in a few cases, this is not possible because of mental hang-ups. When the pain becomes too great the mind tells the body to stop, when actually the body is capable of much more. This mental pain barrier is pushed back through the use of drugs, thus bringing an athlete closer to his physical peak.
I do not personally use drugs, for I feel that the long-range effects are bad and they are too much of a risk to offset any temporary advantage, but if a drug is developed in which the adverse effects are negligible, I can see its justification.
San Marino, Calif.
Carelessly read, this article certainly could give a young athlete the impression that using drugs is the thing to do. For mature readers with a set of values, this practice stands out as foolhardy. For the budding high school athlete, eager to make the grade, it is something else again. Mr. Gilbert has done an excellent reporting job. Too bad more stress could not have been placed on the dangers of this practice.
Mrs. ROBERT W. OLLAYOS
I enjoyed Bil Gilbert's article and found it informative and honest, presenting both sides of the argument. However, his discussion of professional bicycle racing amazes and disgusts me with its incompetence and one-sidedness.
The Tommy Simpson case really enraged me. First, let me say that I'm familiar with his death through other readings, conversations with racing cyclists and Simpson's biography. The way you relate the incident your huge readership would assume his death was 100% due to drugs he took illegally! This is absurd. Let me remind you that this was the rare case of an athlete who was in superb physical condition, under fierce heat and high altitudes (for which he had not trained properly, or, I should say, sufficiently) and with a fanatical will to win. He probably had not enough salt in his body. All of these things, plus the drug that Simpson took, enabled him to reach his physiological limit, and he died. Normally, he would have blacked out. Instead, with all of the contributing factors, one of which was the drug, he killed himself.
Now many readers may assume, as you make out, that all, or a great majority of, bike racers are little better than drug addicts. This at a time when our sport is struggling in the U.S. for professional status amidst a bungling of Olympic cycling coverage on the part of ABC-TV.
WILLIAM M. HARLAN
Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.
ROW, BOW, ROW (CONT.)
I found Mr. Kunen's critique of Columbia and its crew to be both charming and, in several instances, truthful (Merrily, Merrily, June 16). It is unfortunate, however, that ex-oarsman Kunen is unable to divorce himself from the bitterness of the apostate who, once having given up a commitment, feels obliged to denigrate it. Although I don't know if Kunen will be able to understand the simplicity of the following statement, I row because I enjoy it. Like the heroic light-weight crew of Kunen's article, I row for myself, win for myself and lose for myself, not for Columbia University. It is ludicrous to consider a commitment to crew to be an implicit acceptance of racism, reaction or police brutality.
I might conclude by reminding Mr. Kunen that in a very real sense we're all just playing games, whether we be crew jocks or campus revolutionaries.
1969 Heavyweight Crew
We certainly appreciate SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's fine excerpt from William Service's Owl (June 30). However, I hope your readers won't be confused by the inference in the issue's LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER that the book has already been published by Alfred A. Knopf. It won't be in the bookstores until October.
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
New York City
Address editorial mail to TIME & LIFE Bldg., Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.