Philip Roth (The Great American Rookie, March 12) was being characteristically modest in your LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER concerning his baseball prowess as a youth. The fact stands that Roth was considered one of the brightest prospects ever to surface on the playing fields of Newark, fields that have produced score's of stars whose names, unhappily, escape me.
He did not play for Weequahic High for the simple reason that Roth felt his presence on the team might embarrass the less gifted boys. He played instead for the B'nai B'rith Bombers out at Sol R. Rappaport Memorial Field (now W. C. Handy Park), where the rattle of Roth's line shots off the outfield walls prompted the passing of local noise ordinances, among the first in America.
Roth once hit a ball, measured, 180 feet (on the bounce). Since Roth was only 18 at the time, it is clear that had his progress continued at this pace he would today, turning 40 this very week, be one of the great long-ball hitters of this or any other generation.
So feared was Roth that he was once issued six intentional passes in a single game, although the pitcher, one Sheldon Grossbart, chose an unorthodox manner of going about it, to say the least. He hit the writer six times with his fastball, three times smack in the head, which some critics maintain accounts for the turn of Roth's future writings. Grossbart later had a tryout with Keokuk of the Three I League, which will give you an idea of the class of ball in which Roth found himself. He was not perfect; who among us is? He could not hit the drop-drop. He was afraid of the fastball and the slider and the curve. Even then he was protecting himself for the great years ahead. What counts is that the Clifton Avenue Pee Wee League to this day plays its games in Babe Roth Park, in memory of what he might have been—and because he donated the backstop.
March 26, 1973
•Best-selling Author Roth replies to best-selling Author Crichton: "It is no mystery to me why Mr. Crichton should attempt to sully my record as a sandlot ballplayer (1941-49). In the summer of 1971 on Martha's Vineyard a right-handed woman and myself soundly trounced Mr. Crichton and two 10-year-old children in a game of running bases. Obviously Mr. Crichton is still smarting from that loss. It is interesting—and bracing—to note that neither of the children (whom Crichton dragged down to defeat that day with his own clumsy base running) has seen fit to co-sign Mr. Crichton's letter, though I do not doubt that considerable pressure was brought to bear upon them to do so."—ED.
The Great American Rookie
Was eagerly read by me;
As a writer Roth may be Triple A,
But about baseball he's strictly Class D.
EDSEL H. WARD
THE BACK IS BACK
The 1973 White Sox are all of the team that William Leggett described (No Holes to Mend in These Sox, March 12)—and more. With the additional power (Melton and Henderson) and pitching (Stone and Johnson) for 1973, the Sox have solid offense and defense. The excitement they cause could push attendance totals over three million for the first time in Chicago baseball.
The pennant will be waving on the South Side this fall.
Country Club Hills, Ill.
Curse you, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED! Why me? After faithfully following your printed words for 11 years, after fanatically following my sunflower team for 16 years, after bleeding, stomping, crying, laughing and cheering for my glorious losers, I said to myself, "This year...this year will end my suffering." But now what can I do? You don't even have the courtesy to put the whammy on my heroes in August or September, thus at least giving me some hope from April to July. No, you insist on taking all of the suspense out of the season. I've seen what you've done in the past to my skylarks. I still hold you partly responsible for their ' "wasteland" era. But this is the cruelest joke of all—a cover story on the Chicago White Sox. Oh, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, I hate you! But, oh, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, I love you!
The metamorphosis of the South Siders is certainly a unique one. From the '67 Sox, a fine defensive team that chased Boston down to the wire, they evolved into the '68-70 Go-Go Sox (i.e., out of town), consisting generally of bumbling incompetents. Fortunately for Chicagoans, Chuck Tanner and Rollie Hemond came along, retained the quality players, swapped the others for ones of a higher caliber and promoted talented minor-leaguers to the parent club. In three short years they built the Super Sox: a collection of dynamic hitters further enhanced by the additions of Ken Henderson and John Jeter, and anchored by knuckleball artist Wilbur Wood.
To steal a page from Ernie Banks' Book of Rhythmic Chicago Cub Predictions, "First place is where the White Sox will be in '73!"
THE STATE OF STATE
As a former Florida State student I congratulate Barry McDermott for an outstanding report on the Seminoles (Clyde The Glide and the Slide, March 12). Ron Harris, last year's MVP, probably sums up this year's dismal season best with his harsh reaction to Clyde's attitude toward the team. However, I feel that Coach Hugh Durham has done a tremendous job in giving a guy like Clyde a chance. His approach of making a contribution to society rather than just taking the kids who score well on their college boards is commendable. Naturally I'm disappointed about this year's team. But with a coach like Durham, I'm confident that next year FSU will once again challenge UCLA for the top. Thanks again for an excellent article.
LUKE LA FIA
It's great that FSU accepts athletes in order to make them "possible assets" to society. But I question how much they are trying to aid society and how much they are attempting to build up a nationally ranked basketball team. It is frustrating to Carolina fans to read a comment such as the one Coach Durham made concerning Dean Smith of the University of North Carolina. Mr. Smith is bound by both the Atlantic Coast Conference and the university entrance requirements. This means that many fantastic basketball players cannot be recruited. Often it is these very players who help their teams defeat UNC and in the process give the Carolina fans ulcers.
Chapel Hill, N.C.
For a team that was gunning for another shot at UCLA, eight losses might just as well have been 80. When you're on top, every loss is an upset. Defeat is never more bitter than when victory was expected. One of the most tragic aspects of sport is the struggling but talented team that never quite reaches its potential and winds up playing with almosts and might-have-beens.
Again, thank you for an enlightening albeit painful look at the unmaking of a season. It has been a disillusioning and disappointing year for Florida State, but there is next year to look to, and the hope that Coach Durham can find the key and that Cole, Clyde and McCray can put the Seminoles on the road back to the top.
If a college basketball Coach of the Year is selected on the basis of outstanding performance, then an "un-outstanding" Coach of the Year should also be selected. Hugh Durham would be my choice.
As McDermott's article explains, however, there was more to the story. Rather than pinning the blame on only one individual—i.e., either Durham or Benny Clyde—McDermott gives a balanced explanation.
The story shows the entire NCAA picture. Instead of writing only about winners, you provide depth by writing about losers.
CHARLES A. WILLIAMS
Terre Haute, Ind.
MEETING THE RUSSIANS
Perhaps you could help at least two of our best basketball teams meet the Russians with or without their timekeeper.
One team should be the winner of the NCAA championship, the other team should . be the winner of the NBA championship. These teams would be allowed to pick up any athlete that they could use. For example, UCLA could ask Ed Ratleff or Dwight Lamar or any other player. If Boston won the NBA it could ask Kareem" Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West or Dick Butkus (to be used against the Soviet center for last-second plays) and George Foreman (to be used against the timekeeper for last-second plays).
In any event, a team should play the Russians. It is completely unfair to the players when an all-star squad is formed a few weeks before the contest. If necessary the NCAA should let North Carolina State substitute for the NCAA champion. Certainly Russia is far more unscrupulous about recruiting than North Carolina State.
JOHN E. TULLY
The pacer referred to in the pro track meet (It Wasn't Small Potatoes in Pocatello, March 12) is primarily a training device. The fact that the Run-Pacer lends excitement to races for track fans is a pleasant but relatively unimportant plus.
JEROME M. KAUFMAN
FOR THE MANY OR THE FEW?
Three cheers and a pat on the back for Peter Weymouth and the group of parents in Howard County, Md. ("An Attack on the Citadel," SCORECARD, Feb. 26). As an educator I have watched complaining parents with disregard for quality education put pressure on schools and school boards to develop winning teams and coaches. It is encouraging to hear of someone willing to step forward to take the pressure off the coaches, who cannot take the time to emphasize skills development, sportsmanship and cooperation but instead have to concentrate on winning at any cost in order to protect their jobs. It is time sport for variety and value was put into our educational system and pressurized competition was taken out. I hope the Howard County school board is innovative and that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED keeps track of the development of this situation. I am sure there are many interested readers.
JAMES L. WILEY
Hats off to the school board of Howard County. I doubt whether its efforts will cause many ripples, but it has the perfect answer to a more diversified interest in sports as well as to more involvement of students in school.
For years we have listened to the erroneous idea that the big sports bring in the money for high school as well as college programs. Maybe this is true for Ohio State and other biggies, but overall I think this is false. The only reason that football and basketball are so-called major sports on a scholastic level is that they are "controlled" by these sports from the pro level.
People will go out to see many other sports if the proper interest is created. Iowa State and Oklahoma State have traffic jams for their wrestling matches, Morehouse College here in Atlanta piles them in for its swimming meets and I am sure there are other examples throughout the country where a minor sport brings in much more than it costs.
Not everyone can play football. However, almost everyone can swim, do gymnastics, play table tennis, etc. In addition, such a program could also create interest in some of the Olympic events in which our efforts seem to have gone downhill lately.
As a nonvarsity high school male, I support the continuation of interscholastic sports at the varsity level. Aside from providing the training grounds for the college and professional athletes of tomorrow, interscholastic athletics provide an important center of student spirit.
Very few people are discouraged by failure to succeed on a varsity team, while many benefit from the weekly social event of going to the game and going out with friends afterward. I also see nothing wrong with an emphasis on winning, or with players enjoying the camaraderie of long practice periods.
Intramural competition does not "generate excitement," except, perhaps, at an elementary school level. And programs for the sports cited as sources of lifelong enjoyment are usually poor; tennis, golf and handball are often left out, and I know of few adults who spend hours playing volleyball or working out on parallel bars.
In summary, I, as well as the majority of students with whom I associate, regard interscholastic athletics as an essential part of high school life. So, Bravo for the Citadel, whatever that means.
Re Houston Post sports columnist Lynn Ashby's suggestions for European football team names (SCORECARD, March 5), please permit me to add a few more. For instance, the Lyons Cubs and the Dublin Ornothings would certainly rate franchises.
However, Ashby's scope is too narrow. Like Pete Rozelle, we should look forward to the day that pro football goes worldwide. Then we can have such teams as the Sydney Wicks, the Chile Burgers, the Brazil Nuts and the India Inks.
These teams also would fit nicely in sports headlines: the Gobi Tweens, the Manila Papers, the Ural Messed-ups and the Peiping Toms. Finally, we note the team that would undoubtedly be the finest defensive unit in the World Football League, the Bagdad-dy Lipscombs.
JAMES H. BERGLAND
If Moscow fields two teams, besides The Mules you could have the Red Red Robins. And if that name is for the birds, how about the Florence Nightingales and the St√ºhle Pigeons?
Also, I'm sure the London Broilers would take the Bridges, to say nothing of the Cork Leggers and the Galway Bays. Finland's Helsinki Angels could be tough, also the Lourdes Miracles.
NORB KEARNS SR.
Howard Beach, N.Y.
How could Lynn Ashby possibly fail to include the Bristol Cremes, Yorkshire Terriers, Dutch Elms, Hamburg Buns, Berlin Airlifts, Swedish Meatballs, Monaco Dodges, Welsh Rarebits, French Poodles, Spanish Galleons, Frankfurt Rolls, Greenwich Mean Times, Bavarian Cream Pies, Prussian Dueling Scars and the Finnish Lasts?
EDWARD J.R. BUZANOWICZ
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