From tennis to baseball, hot-air ballooning to donkey baseball, your April 20 issue had it all.
DOUGLAS H. ALLEN
It's kind of embarrassing to be sitting in your room alone, laughing loudly, especially when you're supposed to be studying pathophysiology, but that story on donkey baseball by Giles Tippette was funny.
New York City
It escapes me how you can devote eight pages of your magazine to third basemen (Third Is the Word, April 13) and mention the best one ever only in passing. Graig Nettles will be a better fielder than either Mike Schmidt or George Brett when he is 66. I hope you will redeem yourselves during the course of the season.
New York City
Regarding Jim Kaplan's list of major league third basemen who are in the Hall of Fame, I have talked a number of times with James (Cool Papa) Bell here in St. Louis. He has told me that he has seen Pie Traynor, Brooks Robinson, Jimmy Collins et al., and he says that William (Judy) Johnson was one of the best. Why must we keep omitting references to these great black stars? True, Johnson wasn't in the "bigs," but he is in the Hall of Fame along with my hero, Bell.
Fielding, hitting, longevity, All-Star appearances—doesn't anyone, including the Hall of Fame voters, remember George Clyde Kell?
Anyone who thinks that Freddie Lindstrom got into baseball's Hall of Fame solely on his bat is a baseball ignoramous. Lindstrom was an excellent fielder with great range. To classify him as a "fixture rather than a fielder" would be ridiculous. John McGraw, rightly called the manager by SI, decided in 1931 that Lindstrom's great speed would be of even more value in the outfield. He moved Lindy to centerfield. While a "fixture" can be hidden in left or right, a centerfielder must be able to move. Believe me, when Lindstrom was at third, he made all the plays.
Steve Wulf's article Tricks of the Trade (April 13) was most enlightening for the average fan. However, as a former major leaguer, I believe the number of pitchers who cheat deliberately is somewhat exaggerated. I also think there should be a distinction made between cheating and a smart play that confuses the base runners. When a base runner calls it bush to be trapped off base by the maneuvers of a Fred Stanley or a Bobby Grich, he's simply alibiing for being outsmarted.
No base runner should ever be victimized by the hidden ball trick. The runner should never get off the bag until the pitcher gets up on the mound and is ready to pitch. If the pitcher makes contact with the rubber without having the ball in his possession and the runner is tagged by the baseman, the runner isn't called out. Instead, a balk is called and the runner advances a base. All players who take a lead before the pitcher gets on the mound should be fined.
Back in the 1920s, when I was playing with the Cardinals, we used bats that were prone to strip or open up lengthwise because they dried out in the sun. The club's frugal top brass didn't supply the players—Rogers Hornsby among them—with many bats, so we had to try to fix them by nailing them together. I always did this, as did many others on our club, but I don't recall any umpire doing anything about it. I do recall that when the great George Sisler was batting over .400 for the St. Louis Browns, he loaded his bat with nails and had it taken away from him. He may have been fined by American League President Ban Johnson.
GEORGE (SPECS) TOPORCER
Huntington Station, N.Y.
•Dick and George Jr., two of Sisler's sons, say that they've never heard that story about their father, and Dick maintains that his father would never have done anything illegal. George does remember receiving as presents from his father some bats that had been broken and nailed together. Says George, "I would say, if it was done, it was in the spirit of a player trying to preserve a favorite bat rather than as an attempt to hit the ball harder or farther."
However, in a 1953 column, J. Roy Stockton, then sports editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, shed a different light on the subject. He quoted Willis Johnson, the Browns' traveling secretary in Sisler's day, as saying that Sisler got 23 hits from a bat in spring training one year during the early '20s. But after the season began and the bat had been hauled around and thrown into bat racks and trunks for a while, it began to split at the meat end, and Sisler went to teammate Jimmy Austin for help. Austin reportedly hammered some brads into the bat to keep the splits from spreading. Then, for good measure, he pounded in more of the nails all around the fat end of the bat. Sisler continued to get a lot of hits with this bat, until one day White Sox Second Baseman Eddie Collins noticed a glint reflecting off Sisler's bat as Sisler swung and asked to inspect it. Sisler refused, but Plate Umpire George Moriarty saw the brads and declared the bat illegal. Austin then went to a music store and bought some blue Victrola needles, which he hammered into the bat in place of the brads, and Browns Pitcher Elam Vangilder rubbed the bat with tobacco juice and honed it with a ham bone. Sisler used the bat, Stockton reported, until it finally snapped in two and Austin had both ends burned before anyone could see how it had been doctored.—ED.
The best tricks are the legal but sometimes devious skills that many fans don't appreciate. My favorite example occurred in Yankee Stadium when, with a Boston runner at first, a solid single was hit into centerfield. Joe DiMaggio came in a few steps to field the ball on the ground, raised up and turned his left shoulder toward third and then, in the same smooth movement, fired the ball ankle-high into second base. The runner was caught leaning toward third. Great deception, good baseball and a runner removed from scoring position.
ARTHUR L. HARNETT
State College, Pa.
Particularly interesting was Steve Wulf's aerodynamic analysis of the spitball, which was brilliant but totally incorrect. Wulf cites Schlichting's Boundary Layer Theory in claiming that the magic behind the spitball is somehow related to Stokes' equation for the drag of a sphere:
D = 6‚âà√¨‚àö√ë‚âàí¬¨‚à´ R U‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö‚Ä†‚àö¬™.
Hermann Schlichting certainly would never make such a claim, for as any major league pitcher with a thorough understanding of viscous aerodynamics and boundary layer theory would tell you, Stokes' equation is valid only when the viscous forces acting on a body are much greater than the inertial forces of the fluid in which the body travels. Quantitatively this means that the Reynolds number (a characteristic of the speed of the body and of the fluid in which it travels) must be much less than l. However, the Reynolds number for a baseball traveling through the air at 90 mph is over 200,000, clearly not less than l, hence well out of the range of validity for the above equation. So come on, SI. You figure out how to throw 'em, and let us figure out why they do like they do.
Aeronautical Engineering Student
West Lafayette, Ind.
I thoroughly enjoyed Jim Kaplan's article on Ken Harrelson (TV/RADIO, April 13). We inhabitants of Boston needed someone to set the record straight publicly on the escapades of Red Sox owners Haywood Sullivan and Buddy LeRoux. With today's conforming broadcasters worrying about their jobs, Harrelson's frankness and knowledge of the game are a welcome relief. I'm sick and tired of hearing announcers say, "Well, that call could have gone either way," after an umpire or referee has missed an obvious play. Just hearing Harrelson say, "The umpire sure did blow that one!" does my heart good.
As a diehard Yankee fan, formerly resident in Red Sox country, I've had many a heated discussion with friends concerning the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry. But for one argument I have no rebuttal; Sox games are far more enjoyable to listen to in Boston than Yankee games are in New York, thanks to Ken (Hawk) Harrelson and TV 38. I recall watching the playoff game on TV 38, and the Hawk was one of the most gracious Sox fans in frustrated defeat.
Keep shooting straight, Ken. Someday Boston management will listen to somebody who knows how to make the Red Sox better than a perennial runner-up to my beloved Yanks!
Well, well, well—a Special Baseball Issue (April 13) complete with little Stars and Stripes symbols! Nary a Maple Leaf in sight. I guess Montreal and Toronto are used to it. After all, any sport culminating in a "World" Series and played within the confines of North America is suspect.
New York City
Address editorial mail to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, New York, 10020.