Not again! The New York Islanders won the Stanley Cup and weren't on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (June 1). When they won it last year, Johnny Rutherford, the winner of the Indy 500, was on the cover. This year Joe and Marvis Frazier were featured. What did they do? Smokin' Joe is retired and Marvis had won a six-round bout on a TKO in the last round. In future years, how about being fair to the Islander "dynasty"?
New York City
This is an article from the June 15, 1981 issue
Regarding your June 1 issue, I guess I don't mind a lead article on the Indy 500; the race was kind of exciting. And I don't mind the Fraziers; it will be interesting to see if Marvis can outsing his father. I don't know about Wilfred Benitez; just what is a super welterweight? And as for Jorge Velasquez, I always thought the horses were more important than the jockeys. But surfcasting! An article about surfcasting before one about the Stanley Cup finals? I always thought the only reason all those surfcasters got up so early was to get away from sunburned kids and beach balls. I never knew you could catch fish that way.
The Stanley Cup finals showed that hockey is exciting without fights. They showed that the players are articulate and talented and young. But SI's article (The Islanders Sew It Up) didn't show any of that. Surfcasting?
PAUL M. DEBLINGER
Bowling Green, Ohio
I dreaded receiving my June 1 issue of SI, fearing that it would be chock-full of gushing, slobbering, hero-worshiping articles praising the Islanders for their Stanley Cup victory. Needless to say, I was very pleased to see the meager coverage you gave them.
The truth is that the 1981 Stanley Cup finals were boring and did more to damage this once great sport than 100 bench-clearing brawls could ever have done. What once was a fast-paced, exciting game has now degenerated into nothing more than an ice folly. This pasteurized, homogenized version of hockey that anti-violence scribes like Mark Mulvoy and Larry Brooks seem to love will never sell.
THOMAS R. WRIGHT
The sidebar by Donia McMurray-Kirmsse that accompanied the A.J. Foyt story (Get Out of the Way, Here Comes A.J., May 25) reminded me all too much of a similar experience I had in Rome in 1970. Like the author, I had purchased a used Ferrari and was having an extremely difficult time learning to drive it. I, too, finally resorted to taking lessons from a professional, and he helped me master the car enough so that I had three years of enjoyment with it before moving back to the U.S. The twist to my story is that in the same condominium in which I lived in Rome was a boy who often asked to sit in the car and to ride with me from the gate of the condo to the garage when I came home from work. He was just into karting then. His name was Eddie Cheever, and today he's an up-and-coming Grand Prix driver.
I'll bet Ben Hogan was delighted with SI's May 25 cover photo of A.J. Foyt. Hogan's golfing logo, which can be seen on A.J.'s red leather gloves, fits right in with all those other product names decorating Foyt's Indy outfit. I wonder: Does A.J. wear golf gloves because the 500 is a long driving contest?
New York City
The invisible combustion caused by alcohol-fuel fires is frightening (A Fierce and Fiery 500, June 1). Until some color or chemical additive that would clearly indicate the presence of an alcohol fire is found, the use of this fuel should be banned at Indianapolis.
JOSEPH F.J. CURI, M.D.
THE ILLINOIS CASE
In his article The Big Ten's Big Mess (May 25) Douglas S. Looney says the Big Ten eligibility committee ruled that Dave Wilson "could play in the fall if he had 51 hours of academic credit, the Big Ten minimum for a student going into his [third] year. (Wilson was allowed to transfer 36 hours from Fullerton.)" In the next paragraph he writes that the Big Ten faculty representatives reaffirmed that Wilson had only one year of eligibility left and that instead of using it up in 1980 he would have to acquire fourth-year status—a minimum of 78 credit hours—in order to play in 1981. From what Looney writes, even if Wilson had been ruled eligible to play in 1980 by the Big Ten, he still would have been 15 hours short of being academically eligible. He had only 36 hours after two years of college and needed 51. Please explain.
•Wilson earned the necessary 15 additional hours in a subsequent spring semester at Illinois and in a summer session at California State University, Fullerton. Also, because Wilson then transferred from Illinois' College of Agriculture to its College of Applied Life Sciences, he was allowed to count two more hours of credit—in addition to the 36 originally allowed—that he had earned while at Fullerton College, a junior college.—ED.
BILL JAMES' NUMBERS
I enjoyed your article on Bill James and his baseball statistics (He does It By the Numbers, May 25). Having shared the same dorm with Bill for several years at the University of Kansas, I can attest to his devotion to thoroughness, his love of statistics and his dedication to baseball. The only flaw I could ever find in his thinking was that I could never persuade him to cheer for the Cardinals.
Bill James sounds like a fascinating and lucid fellow. It's amazing that anyone as hardworking, creative and insightful as he is can't make a decent living from baseball analysis, while slews of less knowledgeable sportswriters and commentators prosper. I'd like to put my money where my mouth is and purchase a copy of his 1981 Baseball Abstract. Where do I write?
•Send your check for $13 to Bill James, P.O. Box 2150, Lawrence, Kans. 66044.—ED.
Regarding Bill James' contentions at the beginning of your article about him, I'd like to offer a few rebuttals: 1) When people talk about Billy Martin's genius for inspiring young players, they're not referring to the players' age. What they mean is that he has inspired players with fewer than five years of major league experience; 2) Billy Martin likes his players to steal and hit-and-run; 3) Nolan Ryan hasn't lost many leads, so he's almost unbeatable; and 4) The Phillies got lucky last year and a lot of people wrote them off. As for Montreal's record in the stretch, the Expos lost crucial games to Philadelphia at the end of last season.
DO AS I SAY...
On Saturday, May 16 I watched The Baseball Bunch (TV/ RADIO, May 25). Johnny Bench was instructing the Bunch on the proper way to catch a fly ball. Among his rules: Always use two hands. A film, narrated by Tommy Lasorda, was shown of major league players making errors by trying to catch the ball with one hand. The following Saturday, I watched Bench play on NBC's Game of the Week. On pops to first base, Bench made the play by catching the ball with one hand. Does he practice what he preaches?
East Setauket, N.Y.
In his article on Len Barker's perfect game (Perfect in Every Way, May 25) Bruce Newman seems to imply that a perfect game is one in which there are no hits, no walks, no errors, no nothing. Actually, a perfect game may have an error. The definition of a perfect game is a complete game in which a pitcher prevents any opposing batter from reaching first base. Hence, a foul pop-up dropped by a fielder would be scored as an error, but the pitcher would still have an opportunity to retire that batter and preserve his perfect game.
West Des Moines, Iowa
How can you consider it a perfect game if it was played in Cleveland?
I have no idea where John Papanek got the information that Larry Bird has "easily surpassed Bobby Orr and Carlton Fisk and is even now challenging the sainted Carl Yastrzemski in the hierarchy of [Boston's] favorite sports heroes" (Once More, with a Lot of Feeling, May 25). That's absurd.
First of all, no one in Boston compares baseball players like Fisk and Yastrzemski with basketball's Bird. There's no need to. Boston fans like all three. Second, it's absolutely crazy to even think that there is or ever will be a player in the history of Boston sports who has surpassed or will surpass Orr in the hearts of anyone who has seen Orr play.
If John Papanek would do a little more research, he would find that the two most worshiped figures in Boston sports history are Bobby Orr and Ted Williams. Larry Bird may someday achieve their level of popularity, but for now he doesn't come close.
I was disturbed by John Papanek's suggestion that the fans attend Celtics games because the Celtics are a "white" team or that Larry Bird is admired because he is a white player. As a longtime fan, let me assure you that every Celtic is the same color: Green.
West Roxbury, Mass.
How about printing a Celtic hater's opinion for a change? Hating the Boston Celtics is as American as apple pie. Contrary to Papanek's and Cedric Maxwell's belief, fans also come out in large numbers to see the Celtics get beat. Only when all the other NBA teams have won 14 league crowns will this Celtic-hater rest easy.
CLEVE LEWIS & CO.
I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Pileggi's article on the outstanding Lewis family (Going to Great Lengths, June 1). But Willingboro (N.J.) High's production of super track stars can't hold a torch to the capacity of John F. Kennedy High ("the other school in town," where Bill Lewis teaches social studies) for putting soccer players into the pro ranks. Six JFK alumni have played or are playing in the N ASL, the MISL or the ASL, including Cleve Lewis, Tony Bellinger, Chris Cattaneo, Dave Grimaldi, Jeff Kraft Gust drafted by the MISL's Philadelphia Fever) and Roland Mitchell. The man largely responsible for this is Charles Duccilli, the former coach of the Kennedy Gryphons.
I'm sure that no more than a handful of high school coaches in any sport can say that in fewer than 10 years they have put five players into the pros and more than 60% of their lettermen into top colleges.
The editor's footnote to my letter, which appeared in the May 25 19TH HOLE, stated that for the years 1930-1979, excluding bowl games, the NCAA listed Notre Dame as the third-winningest Division I-A football team, behind Alabama and Oklahoma.
It may be of passing interest to your readers to know that during that period Notre Dame played Oklahoma eight times, winning seven, and Alabama three times (including two bowl games), winning each time.
In that same span of 50 years, Notre Dame won eight national championships, outdistancing Alabama (six) and Oklahoma (five).
•An NCAA recheck of its 1930-1979 records show that, including and excluding bowl games, Notre Dame was the second-winningest I-A team in those 50 years, with Alabama first and Oklahoma third.—ED.
Address editorial mail to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, New York, 10020.