Thank you for a fine article on the J.R. Richard tragedy (Now Everyone Believes Him, Aug. 18). Unfortunately, I was one of many people in Houston who doubted the seriousness—or even existence—of J.R.'s physical problem. The threat of a player strike and the enormous escalation of player salaries in baseball have made a number of us fans look at the superstars suspiciously. We have learned a valuable lesson at the expense of Richard and his family.
It's also a shame it has taken a near-fatal stroke to get J.R. the publicity he so richly deserves. I was pleased that William Nack referred to him as the best righthander in baseball. I've followed the sport closely for 27 years—25 of them in Chicago and the past two in Houston—but I've never seen anyone dominate a game the way Richard could. I wish J.R. a successful recovery and thank him for some of the best performances I shall ever see.
The article asked several times why the media and fans came down so hard on Richard when he complained of a tired arm. My answer on behalf of the Astro fans is: What were we supposed to believe? The doctors told us nothing was wrong; his teammates couldn't see anything wrong; and J.R. himself said he wanted to take time off to go fishing. We realize now that we were very much mistaken, but the evidence we were presented with before his stroke was hardly conclusive. I hope we have learned a lesson. Houston Manager Bill Virdon expressed it best when he said that we must always check and recheck.
The problem of an athlete playing with serious illness or injury because of pressure from his team, the press and/or the fans isn't restricted to highly paid pros. It also occurs in high school sports. I hope every fan who has ever booed a kid because he came out of a game with a "slight injury" reads your article and realizes what can happen.
August 31, 1980
WHO CAN MATCH JACK?
The year 1980 gave golf fans something to savor as the great ones—Nicklaus, Watson and Ballesteros—won major tournaments. And Dan Jenkins caught the essense of these superb victories in his unique fashion.
Jenkins' most recent article (Jack, This Is Getting Ridiculous, Aug. 18) leads me to believe that Nicklaus should again be your Sportsman of the Year. After a frustrating two-year victory drought and a sea of words proclaiming the end of his career, Jack silently and gallantly rebuilt his game and his confidence with old-fashioned hard work. In winning the U.S. Open and the PGA, he outclassed the field, and on marvelous golf courses. He is in a league by himself. Can you imagine his record if he were a tour regular?
LORAN R. SMITH
Jack Nicklaus has not only proved that his golf game is back, but he also has displayed to his critics an ability to cope with and respond to tremendous pressure to win. Nicklaus is still the king of his sport because of his great and unmatched determination to succeed.
The sly understatement of Dan Jenkins' story on Jack Nicklaus was deftly fitting. How else could one describe the feats of the most remarkable athlete of our generation?
NYMPHMANIACS AND FIELDSPHILES
I read with great interest and empathy Robert H. Boyle's article Yep, Another Nymphmaniac (Aug. 18). Having been an insect collector myself the past five years, I have endured plenty of stares from persons questioning my sanity. However, the great satisfaction derived from pursuing such a hobby has led me to choose entomology as my life's work. It's nice to know there are other sports-minded insect enthusiasts in this country.
Shawnee Mission, Kans.
To me, SI's primary attractions are its style and its ability to evoke an image. Every once in a while there appears an article—or even just a sentence—that more than justifies the cost of the subscription. One of these sentences was in Robert H. Boyle's Yep, Another Nymphmaniac: "The manager appears behind the thick glass, looking for all the world like Franklin Pangborn confronted by W.C. Fields."
Fields, of course, is dead, but he looks down at me from the wall of my den—larcenous eyes staring out from behind cards held in white-gloved hands. But of Pangborn all I have is the memory of an eternal floorwalker running the tautest of ships in some fictional department store. I wonder if he is still alive.
HARRY E. ROWAN
•Pangborn died in 1958 at age 65.—ED.
Hurrah for Bryant Gumbel (TV/RADIO, Aug. 18), a young sportscaster I enjoy listening to because he gives us information without a lot of hoopla. I feel added pride because he happens to be black.
Pacific Grove, Calif.
Bryant Gumbel is a model for all of us young people who hope for a career in sports journalism. By the way, I'll take "calm and articulate" Gumbel over "gosh, golly, gee whiz" Brent Musburger any day.
Maple Valley, Wash.
EASLER & LACY
That was a superb article on Mike Easler and Lee Lacy, the Pirate tandem in leftfield (Happy at Going Halfsies, Aug. 18). It's great to see two such unselfish players have a super season. Pirate Captain Willie Stargell should give Manager Chuck Tanner a pair of gold stars for platooning them in left.
Anthony Cotton's article about Lee Lacy and Mike Easler stresses the similarities between the Pirate leftfielders. It's true that their averages, clutch performances, personalities and love for baseball are quite alike. But not their faces! That's Easler on the left in the picture, not Lacy as the caption indicates.
As one who grew up in Newport, R.I., I found Frank Deford's story Red Pants, No Socks and Chowder Action (Aug. 18) to be a beautiful summing up of the "City by the Sea." He captured the essence of my hometown.
I found Frank Deford's reference to the Navy's role in the history of Newport very negative. Having been stationed there three times (in 1944, 1948 and 1952-53), I have fond memories of the area and the townspeople. In 1944 the Naval base was used to form crews for the new ships being built, and many famous crews originated there. One in particular was the crew of the U.S.S. Randolph. I saw her take a Kamikaze hit one night at Ulithi atoll.
In reference to the sailors on Thames Street, I dare say a martini or two are tipped by non-sailors in town today! Newporters can be proud of their Navy past.
Staten Island, N.Y.
THE SHAM AND THE SHAME (CONT.)
SI sure hit the nail on the head with John Underwood's article on the student-athlete in the May 19 issue (Special Report: The Writing Is on the Wall). I happened to be reading it when news of the Pac-10 scandals came out (SCORECARD, Aug. 25). Perhaps now more coaches and students, not to mention the NCAA, will take heed. I have read that Pac-10 and Big Ten officials, who have been against freshman eligibility, are planning to make a stronger move to rescind that eligibility, as Underwood suggested. This would help freshman athletes cope with the stresses of college life and make "normal progress" toward a degree.
I enjoyed reading your special report on the student-athlete hoax. The question my European friends ask, however, is, "What relation does athletics have to a university education anyway?" Here, if one wants to become an engineer or doctor, one goes to the university. If one wants to be a soccer or basketball player, one joins a club. If some happen to be "student-athletes," so what? Others are "salesman-athletes" or "bus driver-athletes." The notion that one must go to a university to improve one's sports skills is just a funny American idea.
DEVERE K. CURTISS
Brunn am Gebirge, Austria
Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson lose quite often; the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers drop two or three games a season; Eric Heiden is defeated occasionally; even Bjorn Borg is upset once in a while. Edwin Moses never loses! In fact, no one can come within shouting distance of him in the 400-meter hurdles. I nominate him for Sportsman of the Year.
RICHARD L. LACEY
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