In their letters, which appeared in 19TH HOLE (March 9) concerning your publication of the downfall of Denny McLain, Messrs. Reiss, Kostinas and Pearson take strange positions not unlike the traditional pose of the ostrich—that is to say, bury your head and the problem will disappear. The fact that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED published its story cannot in any way disguise the fact that Denny McLain involved himself in a messy situation, got caught and consequently had his hand smacked.
Actually, it is unfortunate that Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said he was not taking action because of the revelations contained in SI but, rather, was moving on information gained by his office. That may have been shading the truth slightly. I personally neither support nor condone McLain or Kuhn; that is not my function. If McLain is guilty, he deserves to be punished; if not, he'll be exonerated. At any rate, baseball is bigger than either McLain or Kuhn. It was not SI that burst the bubble surrounding a hero, but the hero himself.
E. PAT JOYCE
The News and Courier
I strongly disagree with the statements made by reader David Pearson. He refers to McLain as a hero and states that many still admire Denny despite his "tragedy." McLain has in the past showed no team loyalty and has mouthed off to the press more times than the Tigers would like to remember. He has run up enormous debts despite an annual income of over $200,000. Obviously, he is not one to look up to.
Becoming involved in a gambling operation and being suspended from baseball because of it does not constitute a tragedy. Rather, it was a stupid and unforgivable case of poor judgment. I think it is a tragedy, however, when sports officials try to preserve sports from any connection with organized crime only to have fans side with the players, using the lack of heroes as a weak defense. I think SI and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn have done a great service to baseball and its fans.
March 23, 1970
I disagree with the letter in 19TH HOLE that stated that Denny McLain cannot singlehandedly discredit baseball. I feel this is wrong because it is the duty of the players, coaches, owners and whoever else is responsible for baseball to keep such scandals out of the sport. I am not picking out Denny McLain singly, just using him as an example to hope to put a stop to any future scandals. Baseball is a great sport, and it must prevent such happenings in the upcoming seasons.
SKIING IN A BIND
A gold medal for William Johnson and SI for the article, The Name Is the Name of the Game (March 9). I am sure it will set the stage for the development of compatible programs by the IOC, the FIS, the USSA, et al.
(I was a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic Alpine ski team and have since served as director of racing and product manager for the Head Ski Company and as director of marketing for the Lange Company. I am now marketing consultant to the Olin Ski Company, Inc.)
And they confiscated all the Olympic medals earned by the Greatest Athlete of the First Half of the 20th Century for a few $15 sandlot baseball games!
DALE R. SPERLING
IMAGE OF A CHAMPION
William Reed's excellent article on Mark Spitz ("Swimming Isn't Everything, Winning Is," March 9) is a very revealing piece of writing—revealing in that it should have been entitled The Mirror Image of Arnold Spitz. It unveiled P√®re Spitz as a self-appointed coach. He may have sacrificed a great deal to make his son "beautiful" but in so doing I think he carried the ritual too far: he sacrificed a human being for an athletic machine. I think Mark wanted a father during those years of development and fame. What he received instead was a bullwhip, a pointed finger and a raised voice.
Arnold Spitz should make his living from Schnitzer Steel Products and not the Mark Spitz Gold Medal Foundation. Mark is an individual, not an extension! If Arnold Spitz shuts up, if Mark Spitz shapes up (apparently he's doing so) and if Doc Counsilman wakes up, then the Spitz family name can live with pride. I hope Mr. Spitz looks in this mirror that William Reed has manufactured for him and sees that coaching is for men like Sherm Chavoor and George Haines, and realizes that winning is not what's important. Trying is! You don't attain maturity and victory without it.
J. RICKLEY DUMM
North Hollywood, Calif.
Arnold Spitz is a father who is trying to live his athletic life in the body of his son. Let's hope that he does not do for Nancy what he so lovingly did for Mark.
DANIEL T. BIELLI
West Chester, Pa.
Arnold and Lenore Spitz created Mark, George Haines made him a world-class swimmer, Doc Counsilman made him a man. Mark's father is an age-group parent who acts like many others, only he is not one of the "silent majority."
Haines said it right: "I understand that he has matured a lot and I hope so, because that was his biggest fault." Mark made many statements that we knew came from being an immature kid. But he is one helluva swimmer.
Swimming World & Junior Swimmer
North Hollywood, Calif.
Your article on Lew Alcindor (Lew Turns Small Change to Big Bucks, March 9) would seem to pose several interesting questions, not the least of which concerns itself with the future of professional basketball. Whether Tex Maule realizes it or not, he has neatly pointed out that, in a sport of tall men, the "good center" is essential if a team is to be a contender. Would the Milwaukee Bucks have been able to jump from last place to second without the presence of Mr. Alcindor and his more-than-average debut in the league? I doubt it. Moreover, can anyone in Boston who really understands the essence of professional basketball deny that the 11 or so flags that hang above the Celtics home court are but the end result of Bill Russell's great abilities? Surely, then, the strong, agile, all-round center is a necessity in pro basketball today.
It seems strange then that, of all people, Walter Kennedy has remained oblivious to these points and arbitrarily given the league's four new expansion teams seventh through 10th picks in the upcoming draft. Not only will these new teams suffer without a good center, but they may also find this year's exceptional crop of college seniors a bit sparse when it comes their turn to pick.
I am one of the "haughty stiff-necked lot" whom Wilfrid Sheed talks about in TV TALK (Feb. 23). We Canadians don't necessarily have to "insist" our hockey telecasts are better than the American ones, we know they are better.
Granted, the camera work on CBS is about on a par with the CBC and CTV networks, but that announcing is something else. Dan Kelly is always one to two passes behind the play and when Bill Mazer calls Bobby Orr the "Golden Golden" we just cringe a little farther back in our seats and thank the powers that be for Bill Hewitt, the Canadian announcer. In fact, when the boys around the coffee machine discuss the previous day's game as viewed on CBS, the talk about the action takes a back seat to the talk about the irrelevant chatter of Bill Mazer who is, unknowingly, the Pat Paulsen of hockey.
Perhaps an out-and-out duel between CBS and CBC, both televising the same hockey game, would prove the Canadian superiority. In fact, ask Mr. Verna how true the rumor is that during the Stanley Cup playoff last year the CBS crew watched the game on a CBC monitor.
You quoted Tony Verna as boasting that he does more cutting than the Canadians do. I'll agree he does more, but the casual football-baseball fan who is still vague about anything in hockey other than the puck, punches and intermission statistics is disoriented by the camera-to-camera cutting. When you see 80% of the game from one center-ice camera you can appreciate what the 11 men without the puck are doing. I know Tony is trying, but fancy camera-to-camera cutting isn't bringing vague fans into focus about a great game.
As I sit here looking out at the cold, cold wastelands and the igloos and the dog-sleds and the glaciers, I cannot help getting a little red in the face about Wilfrid Sheed's so-called article. I have seen both Canadian and American telecasts and, in my opinion, our telecasts are so much better than yours there can really be no comparison!
He then quotes Tony Verna as saying, "The Canadians take undue risks—isolating the goalie, for instance, when a shot is due—and end up with egg on their tie if no shot is made." I have been watching telecasts here for 10 years, and I have seen that happen twice. In that respect, I'd give CBC and CTV a good rating.
Better that page 7 of your Feb. 23 issue had been left blank. How did a magazine of SI's caliber hire a "writer" like Wilfrid Sheed?
I liked Robert Jones' article on "Yankee" Pete Hamilton and the Daytona 500 race (Yankee Pete and His Reb Getaway Car, March 2) very much but, in the last paragraph, he says that Pete had only a two-year career and most of it was in the Grand Touring class Camaro, which is not entirely correct. Pete raced in the Sportsman and Modified classes all throughout the Northeast, and the race fans in northern New York remember both Pete and the late Don MacTavish for their superb driving.
My son was also racing at the time, and Pete and another fine driver, Ed Flemke, could always be found giving the newer drivers pointers on handling and front-end setups. Pete's driving on half-mile tracks was always something to marvel at; he drove hard and clean and he drove to win.
Everyone always spoke highly of Pete and his machine and we northern New Yorkers like to feel that we had a small part in boosting him up the line to become one of the great professional drivers of today.
I have just read your story on Victor the wrestling bear (A Happy Pair of Hairy Sports, Feb. 23) and I have taken notice of his 50,000-0-1 record. This is the most overrated bear in history.
When I was a junior in high school in 1963, I had Victor on his back twice for at least 15 seconds (with 75 people as witnesses), but the manager ruled it no contest. During my senior year in high school I fought the bear to a tie in front of 20 of my friends. The last time I wrestled the bear was in 1965 while a freshman in college at the University of Colorado. I weighed 240 pounds at the time and, after five minutes, the manager called the match a draw. All of these matches took place in Hollywood, Calif. and all three have been filmed.
SI has fantastic reporters but, please, don't believe every wrestling-bear manager you come across.
I was highly impressed with Frank Deford's thorough and comprehensive article. It was obvious that Deford was enthused enough about his assignment to give it a complete airing. Nonetheless, I remain unconvinced that Victor the bear and his trainer, Tuffy Truesdell, rise above the transparent wrestling we see on the local levels, with "all its shams."
JAMES A. TRANNEL
Your recent article on hockey in the little town of Dauphin, Manitoba (The Only Game in Town, Feb. 16) left me speechless. It is indicative of one of SI's greatest attributes: the very difficult and sensitive ability to extract from our hustle-bustle, 20th century lives the warmth and character of the small people of North America. Don't ever lose this precious quality of sensitivity. SI wouldn't be SI without it.
The small people of Canada thank you.
Smiths Falls, Ontario
THE NCAA STORY
Your editorials are usually on target. Not so with "Camouflage" (SCORECARD, Feb. 9). The NCAA was not "stupid," as you say, in the Langer case.
The NCAA Council, composed of 18 faculty athletic representatives and athletic directors, made the decision that no student athlete could compete in outside games. This was done before Langer's appearance in the Maccabiah games, and Yale was well aware that it was violating this important NCAA ruling. If the NCAA had given approval it would have let down the floodgates for a raft of such invitations in the future. How could you favor one and not others? Yale was wrong and now hates to pay the penalty.
As for brilliant Walter Byers, he has the guts to say no when necessary and, far from being stupid, his leadership has made the NCAA a fine guardian of college athletics. Since Byers took over a feeble NCAA in 1951, it has cleaned up undesirable recruiting practices by having the backbone to place member schools on probation where it was deserved, developed a good TV program and generally has a top-flight organization.
How did it happen? One former NCAA staff member told me, "No matter how early you came to work, Walter Byers was there earlier." Elbow grease, courage and headwork make for a rare combination.
JACK B. STEWART SR.
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