NEVER ENOUGH OF A GOOD THING
I really don't understand you guys. You will write four pages on a quick start for the Dodgers, another seven pages on the Masters tournament and even six pages on a horse's diary, yet you dedicate only two pages to the NBA championship (Swish and They're In, May 15). As a typical unsatisfied, embarrassed L.A. fan, I have seen both the Rams and the Lakers come close but always choke in the big one. Well, the Lakers did not choke this time, and I could hardly wait to see your write-up; it had to be a fitting epitaph. But what a disappointment! You could at least have mentioned that they are unsung heroes, or given a rundown of their newly established records and the players' feelings about their big season, something that we could have saved as a collector's item. Come on, SI, paper costs aren't that high!
Garden Grove, Calif.
Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain are two of the alltime great basketball players. They deserve the recent NBA championship and many plaudits. But for crying out loud, during this entire basketball season SI and the news media in general have failed to give credit where a lot of credit was due. The Lakers would not have had the phenomenal season they had without the steady, aggressive play of Gail Goodrich, whose name was not mentioned once in your May 15 article.
ARLINGTON G. KUKLINCA
After going over your article on the Lakers' brilliant win, I was amazed. Finally someone has recognized and publicly praised this great team, which for years has been ridiculed and harassed for not winning the big ones. The fantastic ball handling and outside shooting of two of the best guards in the league, coupled with the tremendous rebounding of Happy Hairston, Jim McMillian and one of the greatest centers of all time, Wilt Chamberlain, have earned this team the many honors bestowed upon it this year. I have only one complaint about your fine article: it wasn't long enough. But then nobody's perfect.
I am writing to correct a lapse in Pete Reiser's memory in regard to Burt Hooton's pitch, "the thang" (Hooton Is Doing His Thang, May 15). Reiser states, "I imagine somebody must have had a pitch like this sometime, somewhere, but I can't think of anybody." Well, back in the summer of 1941, my father, Dr. Walt Jusczyk, was given a six-week tryout with the Dodgers. During that time he pitched batting practice and threw a pitch which he called "the drop." He threw the drop to Reiser several times with good success. Finally, Reiser asked him to keep throwing it. After seeing the drop 12 times in a row, Reiser connected with one, but only after he adjusted his swing by taking uppercuts at the ball.
My father's drop is exactly the same pitch that Burt Hooton throws. In fact, during his brief tenure with the Dodgers, several of the pitchers became interested in the pitch. One of them, Kirby Higbe, asked to be shown how to throw it, but my father is not sure if Higbe ever used it in a game.
More recently, Dave Stenhouse, with the Washington Senators in the early '60s, threw a variation of this same pitch.
One of the biggest assets of the drop is that it puts very little strain on the arm. My father pitches in the annual alumni games at Brown, and even after 30 years he can still make the ball drop a foot.
PETER W. JUSCZYK
Ron Fimrite's story on Burt Hooton's knuckle curve brought back a 40-year memory for me. Tom Hughes, a pitcher in the Michigan State League, demonstrated this pitch many times to the kids at the P.S. 45 playground. It was an easy pitch to throw, and a number of youngsters mastered it and used it in high school and sandlot ball.
Nor is it unheard of in professional ball. Max Surkont used it to prolong his career for a few years when he came down to Buffalo in the International League. And, if I am not mistaken, Frank Lary used it on occasion.
JOSEPH M. OVERFIELD
Just to keep the record straight, Burt Hooton is not the first pitcher to throw a "knuckle curve"—though he certainly is the most successful.
When I started pitching in the Little League at age 10, my dad taught me to throw a one-knuckle curve, a pitch that carried me through high school and college ball. I also experimented with Hooton's two-knuckle pitch, and when I threw it right it had the same (well, a similar) sudden drop at the plate. Unfortunately it was so unreliable that I stuck with my one-knuckle pitch.
Lacking Hooton's fastball, and ability, I turned to journalism after my college years. But now that spring has come to Central Park, I am anxious to get out there with my wife as a catcher and see if perhaps I wasn't a little impatient with my two-knuckle pitch. Heck, I'm only 29, and if I have an arm like Hoyt Wilhelm I could still get in a 20-year career.
New York City
I was taught the identical pitch at age 12 and threw it until told to junk it (by my Pony League coach) in favor of the standard curveball. However, because of Mr. Hooton's success and the fact that pitching a regular curveball hurts my arm, I have started throwing "the thang" again. I am happy to report that the results are quite encouraging.
As an avid bicycle enthusiast, I was thrilled to death over the article We're Only Starting To Roll by Larry Keith in the May 8 issue. Only one thing impressed me more than the article—the pictures. They are nothing short of fantastic!
While you have to be fair to all sports, I do wish I could sec coverage of major bicycle events more often.
JAMES C. GEIER
A fine article but, like the sport, long overdue to catch the public's eye. I fail to agree with John Howard who is quoted as saying, "The best athletes aren't usually in cycling." John is usually too far ahead to get acquainted with those of us who make up the group.
As for the "enterprising public-relations man" who observed, "The thing has a future," we will forgive him for we welcome everyone to our fine sport.
BILL (AMBER) HUMPHREYS
After reading Larry Keith's article, I thought the following information might be of interest. The Somerville (N.J.) Jaycees, in conjunction with the Somerset Wheelmen, have for years sponsored The Tour of Somerville, which occurs on Memorial Day.
The Tour is a 50-mile race which annually draws several hundred riders of national and international fame, while attracting anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 spectators. This race has come to be known recently as the Kentucky Derby of cycling; so, as you can see, it not only has a future but also a full and illustrious past.
NEIL M. ABITABILO, D.D.S.
It is not surprising to me that baseball fans in the Washington area are bitter over the move of the former Senators to Texas, as evidenced by letters in your May 15 issue. No city could be expected to lose a team and be happy about it.
However, I must take issue with Patrick McCloud, who appears to be writing off the move to Texas as a failure. While it is true the Rangers have not drawn well so far this season, neither have most other major league teams. In this respect, it should be remembered, to Quote Sam Blair, sports columnist for the Dallas Morning News, "Washington had major league baseball for 70 years. Dallas-Fort Worth has not yet had it for 70 days." It should also be pointed out that the 1971 Washington Senators had the second-worst attendance record in the American League.
Major league baseball is still in its infancy in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but interest is growing and will continue to grow. With a great manager like Ted Williams, an owner like Bob Short, and especially with Toby Harrah at short, the Texas Rangers will go a long way. So don't write off the Rangers yet, Washington. You lost your club. We intend to keep ours.
Your May 1 article New Home on the Range on the Texas Rangers was a very accurate summarization of major league baseball in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. In the past some sportswriters have looked at Dallas-Fort Worth and, to some extent, Texas in general as a backseat in the professional sports spectrum. The greatly expanding population of this area, together with a purely professional team, built the Dallas Cowboys into the undisputed champions of the Super Bowl. This sporting environment will likely produce new heights for a baseball team that had no backing in Washington.
Baseball surely does need a place like Dallas-Fort Worth.
I enjoyed your recent article on minor league baseball (Can't Beat the Bushes. April 24), but there was a glaring omission. I am speaking of the Pittsfield Rangers of the AA Eastern League. Where else in pro baseball is a game ever held up by the sun? Only in Pittsfield, Mass. Where else does the owner and general manager broadcast his own baseball games? I am speaking of the man Bill Veeck called the "most original and creative mind in professional baseball today," Pat McKernan. So, when you think of the happenings of minor league baseball in the future, please include Pat McKernan and the Pittsfield Rangers.
WILLIAM R. MASON
Did Dan Jenkins and I see the same Tournament of Champions (Almost Another Jackpot, May 1)? Where Bobby Mitchell teed it up with Jack Nicklaus on the final day and outscored him by two strokes? Where, on the 17th, Mitchell hit the finest long-iron trap shot that I have ever witnessed to within 15 feet of the cup from virtually an impossible stance? Come on, Jenkins, I like Nicklaus and the other heroes, too. But whenever a Mitchell or a Jerry Heard or whoever really puts it together in a tournament, how about an acknowledgment without all the slams and slights? It would be dull indeed to watch only the two or three heroes win every week. My "Sam Sausage" hat is off to Bobby Mitchell for a fine four rounds at La Costa.
Sungyung Chang's article on Naomi Uemura (The Height of Self-Sufficiency, May 1) was excellent. Uemura has done what probably no other single man has ever done, and yet, for all his accomplishments, he has been little hailed in this country. He has climbed the tallest peaks on each major continent, and all but Everest he has climbed alone. Surely he must be considered among the great sportsmen of our time. Even though he is a bit of a loner, his individuality gives me some hope that there are those few unrecognized people who can tear themselves from a complex society and go out and do the supposedly impossible. Naomi Uemura, I take my hat off to you.
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