Ah, yes, John Papanek's careful analysis of why the Sixers will beat the Celtics (The Wearin' Down o' the Green, May 4) was brilliant, except for one minor point: the pride of tradition. Look who's wearing the Eastern crown now! That Boston cabbie knew why: Nobody counts out Red Auerbach's boys until the final buzzer.
Contrary to John Papanek's concluding sentence. Boston did want to go back to Philadelphia to show the Sixers exactly what the Celtics were made of—guts. They staged a remarkable comeback and left us fans booming in Beantown (The Worth of a Bird in Hand, May 11).
DAVID SCOTT PHILLIPS
Newton Highlands, Mass.
So much is written about "Celtic pride." The Celtics beat the 76ers because of "Sixer choke," not Celtic pride.
No wonder rookie Dodger Pitcher Fernando Valenzuela has caused such an outbreak of "Fernando Fever" with his red-hot start (Epidemic of Fernando Fever, May 4). Take another good look at the photographs accompanying Jim Kaplan's article. Notice the wide nose, the merry brown eyes and the Beer League profile. What else would you expect from a man who appears to be the double of Babe Ruth? Maybe the Dodgers should play Fernando in rightfield when he's not needed on the mound.
May 17, 1981
•For the latest word on Valenzuela, see page 22.—ED.
That rookie pitcher for the Dodgers is really something! How long does he have to be in the majors before he'll be eligible to sign with the Yankees?
BRUCE I. NOLL
Jim Kaplan is to be commended for pointing out the stereotyping that Fernando Valenzuela has been receiving in the nation's press. However, SI would do well to look to its own pages before waxing self-righteous. Only the week before, in your BASEBALL'S WEEK section, Herm Weiskopf described Valenzuela as being "built like an overstuffed taco."
PAUL VON ZIEGESAR
New York City
I feel it is very unfair of SI and the rest of the sports media to put so much pressure on 20-year-old Fernando Valenzuela. The season is only one month old, yet Valenzuela is being touted as the next Vida Blue, or more. Come on, now, let's give the guy some breathing room.
KEVIN BOYD MERCER
Virginia Beach, Va.
It was a pleasure for me to read Walter Bingham's article on University of Miami Pitcher Neal Heaton (The Heat Is On with Heaton, May 4). I went to school with Heaton from sixth through 12th grade, and he has always been the finest athlete on whatever field or court he played. I wrote about him for our high school paper, and I share Miami Assistant Coach Skip Bertman's feeling that Neal will be successful in the majors.
Talk about drawing power, on Saturday evening, April 25, Mississippi State played the first two games of a three-game series against Alabama at home, with a chance to take over first place in the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference. A total of 8,452 people saw Mississippi State win that doubleheader, and another 5,300 came out for the Sunday afternoon game, which Mississippi State won 13-5 to assume first place. Attendance figures of more than 5,000 have been recorded for other home games this season. Not bad for a university community of some 17,000 people and a school with an enrollment of 12,000.
MSU, which at this writing is tied for first at 39-12 but assured of a berth in the conference tournament, is led by a power-hitting duo, Bruce Castoria of Floral Park, N.Y., and Mark Gillespie of Omaha. Bruce is batting .359 with 27 home runs and 91 RBIs (both SEC single-season records), while Mark leads the conference in hitting at .418 with 16 home runs and 64 RBIs. Maybe they can put the "heat on Heaton" in June at the NCAA World Series in Omaha.
LARRY W. JONES
Once again Paul Zimmerman, SI's prince of prognostication, gazed into his crystal ball to predict the outcome of the first round of the NFL's collegiate draft (This Phone Will Ring on April 28. April 27). This year I compared Dr. Z's psychic powers with those of Howard Balzer of The Sporting News and Charlie Nobles of the Miami News.
In matching the draftee with the NFL team that chose him, Zimmerman had seven correct forecasts, while Balzer had six and Nobles five. In picking the first 28 players to be selected, Nobles was the winner with 24 first-rounders, while Balzer and Zimmerman each had 22. They both missed Running Back Booker Moore of Penn State and Offensive Tackle Howie Richards of Missouri, prospects not overlooked by Nobles, or by the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys, respectively. Now if someone could only predict which draftees will be future NFL stars....
I read Paul Zimmerman's predictions of the NFL draft with astonishment and disbelief. No Georgia Bulldog players were included. After the season they had last year, you can't tell me that quality players like Scott Woerner, Nat Hudson, Frank Ros and Rex Robinson, just to name a few, aren't excellent first-round material.
MICHAEL A. MCKEEL
•Four members of Georgia's No. 1-ranked team were picked, but none in the first round. Woerner was Atlanta's third-round choice, Hudson and Robinson were sixth-round selections, of New Orleans and Cincinnati, respectively, and Tim Morrison was taken in the 11th round by Dallas. Although passed over in the draft, Ros signed on as a free agent with Denver, as did teammates Jeff Hipp and Anthony Arnold. Pat McShea and Robert Miles, also free agents, signed with Dallas.—ED.
Regarding the editorial entitled "A Victory for Kush, Not for His Methods" (SCORECARD, May 4), who is SI to judge whose methods are right or wrong? As a student equipment manager for two different high schools, I had learned that a number of coaches feel that it doesn't hurt the student-athlete any more than it does the coach to slap a helmet, so when I went to Arizona State to work as a student equipment manager for Frank Kush, I didn't understand the ruckus over a few head slaps. I know of incidents at another school of big athletes being thrown across the locker room during halftime talks. Working for Coach Kush was an honor, and if I have the chance, I'll work for him again.
I once had a football coach who wasn't pleased with my pass blocking. He grabbed my face mask, shook my head sideways and up and down, then lifted my head up by the mask and gave me a forearm to the chin. A few of my teammates later told me that they wanted to jump in, but the fact is I really needed it. It taught me that if you don't produce or do it right, there is always someone else to take your place. I didn't appreciate it then, but I do now, because I have a different outlook on many things. I'm glad to see Frank Kush cleared of the punching charges. As for Kevin Rutledge, he should have taken it in stride.
Thanks for the editorial. As you said, Frank Kush's methods were wrong. Coaches such as Kush, Woody Hayes and others like them are not a credit to college sports. Let's hope that our college and university presidents realize this and act accordingly.
WILLARD B. DEAN
Robert V. Behr's piece on names accorded women's athletic teams (SIDELINE, May 4) was greatly appreciated. However, Behr should be made aware that here in Iowa, where women's high school teams have been competing for more than 50 years, the same problems were faced and conquered some time ago. Throughout the state, the prevailing method of identifying a women's team was the addition of the suffix "ettes" to the male label. Therefore, while growing up in the '50s and listening on radio to the girls' state basketball tournament, I was deluged with the accomplishments of such aggregations as the Bullettes, Warriorettes, Pantherettes, Ramettes, Bulldogettes, Houndettes, ette cetera. My personal favorites came from the small northwest Iowa town of Everly. As perhaps befits a rural community, the boys' teams were known as the Cattlefeeders. The girls, who had several powerhouse teams that went to the state tournament in the early '60s, were, of course, the Cattlefeederettes.
TODD D. TRIPP
Address editorial mail to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, New York, 10020.