You've done it again! Each spring your special baseball issue rekindles my infatuation with our national pastime. I agree that "the game keeps all who care about it young."
As a lifelong Pirate fan, I found this year's pictorial feature on Pittsburgh's batting champions especially gratifying, particularly the classic, full-page painting of the late Roberto Clemente, who was, to my mind, the exemplar of batting excellence. But, alas, there was no mention of Matty Alou, 1966 batting champion with a .342 average. He had a .327 average for his five seasons as a Pirate.
GREGORY P. KUZMA
New York City
For a recently transferred Pittsburgher, it was very satisfying to see the article on Pirate hitters of the past. And the story on Dave Parker was excellent. New Yorkers can talk to me all they want about their fabulous Yankees, but no one can tell me that Parker is not the best player in baseball.
What a great cover on your April 9 issue! Dave Parker can clown all he wants about being No. 1, but Boston's Jim Rice means business.
Santa Monica, Calif.
April 23, 1979
At last an accurate appraisal has been made of the New York Yankees. On paper the Yankees are unbeatable, but baseball games are not won on paper. Your scouting report raised many questions about the Yankees. This just might be the year the Red Sox have more determination to win than the Bronx Bombers.
The Milwaukee Brewers are the hit team this year, and you'd better start believing it.
As usual, I found your baseball issue informative and penetrating. However, in your scouting report on the American League East, you said that both the 1954 Yankees and the 1954 Dodgers had just won two or more consecutive world championships. That is obviously impossible, because they played each other in the 1952 and 1953 Series. And it is also impossible in the case of the 1910 Tigers and 1909 Cubs, who met in 1907 and '08.
I'm sure you meant to say that each of the teams listed had won two or more consecutive league championships. And speaking of seemingly unbeatable teams coming off consecutive league championships, what about the 1969 Cardinals?
CURTIS A. CHEATHAM
It's true the 1973 Bucs looked unbeatable, but they had not won two consecutive world championships, or even two consecutive National League titles. Pirate fans painfully recall a wild pitch by Bob Moose in the ninth inning of the final National League playoff game that gave Cincinnati the pennant in 1972.
THOMAS STEPHEN TERPACK
Although the years have not diminished Jim Bouton's somewhat oversized ego, neither have they lessened his insight into the psyche of the contemporary baseball player (Son of "Ball Four," April 9). My congratulations to Ted Turner for giving Bouton a chance, to Johnny Sain for giving him a slider and, most of all, to Bouton himself for having the physical courage and the artistic desire to ply his trade once more. I hope to see Bouton back in baseball in another 10 years and in your pages again much sooner.
CHARLES E. WATTS JR.
New Philadelphia, Ohio
Jim Bouton's Son of "Ball Four" is inspirational, controversial, nostalgic, sarcastic, funny, infuriating, bittersweet and gut-level. Bouton must be a very contented man. He has done and said it all.
I'm glad Jim Bouton has decided to give up pitching, because now he can concentrate on writing. Baseball officials might not like what he writes, but it's the fans who count, and obviously they think Bouton is special.
Thank you for the Bouton article. It's just one more reason why SI is the best sports magazine on the market.
Elk River, Minn.
Jim Bouton is one free agent I'd pay $1 million to have on my team.
Jim Bouton mentions that, at the Braves' minor league camp, some of the players told him that his book Ball Four had made the majors sound "like so much fun" they "were inspired to play harder so they would be sure to make it" to the big leagues.
I hope that his latest expose, which describes pot-smoking ballplayers, does not provide "inspiration" for today's young aspirants.
I can't believe all the fuss over the Lake Placid Olympic Village (The Olympic Getaway, April 9). The way the Village is being set up, with recreation halls and other desirable facilities, it really can't be that horrible, even if it is designed to be used later as a jail. The athletes won't remain in their rooms all the time. I'm sure their concentration will be on their specific events, not on the rooms they occupy.
DAVID G. HAWLEY
What did the visiting athletes have in mind? Waterbeds and wall-to-wall carpeting? I think it's admirable that the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee is trying to avoid a financial fiasco. Three cheers for American ingenuity!
The city of Montreal is having a hard time recovering from its 1976 Olympic spending debacle. It seems a sensible approach to create a dual-purpose facility that will be of value long after the bellyaching athletes are forgotten. Perhaps it is time to abandon the Olympics. Their original purpose seems to have been hopelessly perverted.
FRANK A. DAMIANI
The room I live in at the University of Massachusetts is 10' by 10', and it is barely big enough for me.
UCLA '64 (CONT.)
Frank Deford's article The Team of '64 (March 26) is one of the best I have ever read in your magazine. I was a senior at UCLA in 1963-64 and a graduate student in succeeding years. I have also been an inveterate UCLA basketball fan since early childhood. I remember how it was to grow up in the Los Angeles that Frank Deford described. He captured the mood of the 1950s and early 1960s very well. I can also clearly recall the beginning of the dynasty: the 1961-62 season, when Walt Hazzard (now Mahdi Abdul-Rahman) was a sophomore. You could see then, and in the following season that Hazzard had a kind of magic that made those around him better.
Frank Deford did a fine job of catching the spirit of those good days. Most striking to me was the portrayal of Keith Erickson's role as safety man in the press. I thought I was the only person who recalled how perfectly Erickson performed. Every now and then I have babbled about it nostalgically to my son, who is too young to remember, and then sighed with resignation that such a performance was not enshrined in history. But now Deford has resurrected those magical moments, which means that lots of other people remember, too. Indeed, if sporting events are worth recalling, hardly anything could be more memorable than John Wooden's 1964 press with Keith Erickson as the infallible and indispensable safety man.
I found Frank Deford's article particularly interesting because I saw UCLA play on four occasions that year, including the NCAA semifinals and finals. As Deford explains, they were winners not because of superior physical attributes, but rather because of team-oriented play, that dreaded, effective press and Gail Goodrich's deadly shooting.
After the Bruins' win over Duke in the NCAA finals, I recall reading that Wooden remarked to his players. "Be gracious to those whom you have defeated on the way up to this pinnacle, because you will be meeting those same people on the way down." I always thought that was humbling, but sagacious, advice.
El Dorado, Kans.
That was a great article by Robert Cantwell on the Mike McTigue-Battling Siki bout on St. Patrick's Day 1923 in Dublin (The Great Dublin Robbery, March 19).
However, in reviewing McTigue's career, Cantwell failed to mention a knockout victory scored over McTigue by Harry Krohn of Akron, in 11 rounds at the Freeport Sporting Club on Long Island in 1921. The fight can be verified in the 1941 edition of Nat Fleischer's All-Time Ring Record Book.
This takes nothing away from McTigue, because both he and Krohn were topnotchers. As Harry's manager, I tried for a return bout for Harry with McTigue, but McTigue wouldn't go.
Krohn, now 81 years old, is a respected citizen of Akron. He retired from the ring in 1925 and worked 37 years for the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company.
Mike McTigue's pattern of staying out of trouble in the early rounds until such time as he could risk punching from a flat-footed stance has been utilized by no less than Muhammad Ali. Unlike the methodical McTigue, the articulate Ali mugged and rope-a-doped until it was safe to risk going for the knockout. Mike rarely threw the "Mary Ann," as he called his right hand, because of very brittle hands. If you didn't buckle under the right hand when Mike hit you early, he put it in his pocket for the rest of the night. I know because my dad was a friend of McTigue's and sparred with him at his training camp all through the '20s.
JOHN J. MCDERMOTT
Tinton Falls, N.J.
I'm sure that none of the readers of Robert Cantwell's excellent article on Mike McTigue read it with more interest than I did.
I'm a member of the New York Athletic Club and was when Mike McTigue was the boxing instructor there. According to my diary, I first boxed with Mike, at the club, on Friday, Jan. 4, 1918.
At the NYAC, Dan Hickey, who was Bob Fitzsimmons' sparring partner, had charge of the boxing room. Paul Berlenbach was also a member, and I think Hickey was his manager when Berlenbach beat McTigue for the light heavyweight title.
After my first few boxing lessons, I told Hickey that I wanted to box in some amateur tournaments. I never made it, but I did box five exhibitions with Jack Kirk, a former all-scholastic tackle and later chairman of the NYAC boxing committee. Hickey refereed. My sixth and last exhibition with Kirk, who was about 15 pounds heavier than I, was scheduled for Grand Central Palace on Feb. 7, 1919. The night before, I warmed up at the club with McTigue, and after we were through I showed Hickey my right hook by hitting a pillar in the boxing room that I thought was padded. It wasn't, and I almost broke my hand. Being a shotputter on my school track team, I hit straight, the way they put the shot in those days, and I didn't have a hook. I still have a bump on my hand from that blow. That put me out of the bout, so McTigue boxed in my place against Kirk.
HERBERT L. BOWMAN
New York City
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