Robert Creamer's article (Hey Mister, Can We Have Your Autograph?, April 12) was the best I've read on the subject of autograph collecting, but he, like others before him, emphasized the profit motive and bad manners of autograph seekers.
I'm an autograph collector. I've always loved the game of baseball, but I never really knew much about the players, especially the old-timers, until I got involved in researching, writing letters and collecting autographs. Now a bit of baseball history unfolds every time I look through my albums, and for every autograph I have received in person, I have a story to tell.
So, to the hundreds of baseball players who have said yes to the question, "May I have your autograph, please?", I'd like to say, "Thanks for sharing the memories!"
East Brunswick, N.J.
I thoroughly enjoyed the article on autograph collecting. One of my treasured possessions is a baseball Babe Ruth autographed in 1928. Just before Henry Aaron broke Ruth's home-run record, I drove to Wrigley Field, where the Atlanta Braves were playing the Cubs, and with the cooperation of an enthusiastic field guard who brought Aaron over, I got Aaron's signature on the same baseball. Wow! Aaron was most gracious about signing. When he saw the Babe's autograph on the ball, he grinned and said, "Gee! How about that?"
JEAN W. FRIEDLANDER
I really enjoyed your article about autographs, but am both confused and amused at the statement that Bill Russell doesn't sign autographs. Right on the opposite page is an ad for the Olympic team. The ad offers paintings, numbered and signed by Bill Russell. Does this count as an autograph?
MICHAEL E. MARTIN
•Not in the strict sense of the term.—ED.
I was deeply moved by William Nack's piece on Steve Garvey (As Always, a Man of Principle, April 12), which was one of the best stories I've seen in my 20 years of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED reading. In this sensitive account of a tragically flawed marriage and a less than clubby relationship with several of his teammates, Garvey emerged as a man of warmth and caring who is dedicated to principle not out of obstinance, but because his values are so much a part of his character that for him to be otherwise is literally impossible.
The criticism of Steve Garvey is an indication of what's wrong in America. Athletes in the past few years have been convicted of point shaving, drug smuggling and a lot of the other transgressions that are committed by members of the general population. But here we have a genuine superstar who happens to be clean-cut, vibrant and very sincere, with the courage to be himself, not a two-faced representation of what the world wants him to be.
Some observers wonder if Garvey is for real, and Don Sutton says Garvey's public personality is a Madison Avenue facade. Oscar Wilde once said a cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing. He must have been thinking ahead to Garvey's critics.
It is certainly unfortunate that Steve Garvey is an only child, because the world could use a few more like him.
Oh, come on! How can you say Steve Garvey is "the most dramatically underpaid player in baseball" when he's making $360,000 a year? The everyday worker is lucky to make $300,000 less than that. Garvey is a super player and easily my favorite, but to say he is greatly underpaid is ridiculous. The statement typifies all that is wrong with baseball today.
I agree with Mr. Kaplan's proposal that holds be incorporated into the relief pitchers' rating system, but while I have only moderate skills in statistical analysis, I find shortcomings in his method of evaluation.
First, many of the new categories he advocates are simply different ways of gauging the same things that established statistics measure. For instance, an effective "+/- run prevent" score should reflect a high number of saves or holds as well as a low ERA. If it doesn't, it's a relatively useless statistic.
Second, the ranking system doesn't account for the degree of a pitcher's effectiveness compared to others. Rollie Fingers shouldn't have been given a measly one-point edge over Rich Gossage in saves when he actually had a whopping eight more saves during the season.
Finally, the author weighs all categories equally in importance, and that's wrong. First batter on base is hardly as important a stat as saves, but Kaplan's system treats them as if it were.
I wonder how many managers, given a choice of relief pitchers, would look at Joe Sambito's five wins, 10 saves and 18 holds, and pick him over Bruce Sutter.
SI's latest contribution to the already crowded field of baseball statistics is too complicated for the average fan to comprehend. Here's a simpler system that works for both pitchers and batters.
The basic unit of performance in baseball should be bases advanced. A base or bases can be advanced by a player getting a hit, a walk or a steal. Also, a hitter may get credit for a base or bases advanced by moving runners along with a batted ball or walk. A hitter has an opportunity to accrue bases advanced during a plate appearance; for statistical purposes, a plate appearance includes not only the batter's time at the plate but also anything that he might accomplish while on base as a result of that turn at bat. The basic stat derived from all this is bases advanced per plate appearance.
Examples: Eddie Murray hits a bases-empty home run—4 bases advanced, one plate appearance, BAPPA=4.000. Ken Singleton walks with bases loaded—4 bases advanced, one plate appearance, 4.000. Cal Ripken strikes out with men on first and third—no bases advanced, one plate appearance, 0.000. Dan Ford hits into a double play (runner on first)—minus one base advanced, one plate appearance,—1.000. Lenn Sakata sacrifices a runner from first to second—one base advanced, one plate appearance, 1.000. Thus a single statistic includes a player's batting average, slugging percentage and RBIs, plus credit for walks, sacrifices and stolen bases.
From a pitcher's standpoint, the statistic becomes bases allowed per plate appearance faced. The starter who faces 31 hitters, giving up in different innings a double, two singles and a walk, has a BAPPAF of 0.161.
There are still a few bugs to work out of this system—for example, does a batter who pops up with two out and a man on third get minus three for erasing those three bases already earned?—but in general this method seems to simplify the maze of statistics that baseball fans have to deal with.
DAVID R. AXELSON
Is Jeremiah Tax back from vacation yet? I think "Dave" LaCorte (page 86, relievers' chart) misses him.
•"Dave" LaCorte is, of course, Frank, and, as many readers pointed out, "Larry" Gantner on page 59 is Jim. We should have asked them for their autographs.—ED.
How could anyone pick Baltimore fifth in the American League East behind Cleveland, a team that has finished 14 or more games out every season from 1960 through 1980?
What? The White Sox predicted to finish third behind the unstable A's and the washed-up veterans on the Angels! How can you take a team that finished second in the league in batting and fourth in club pitching, add Steve Kemp and Tom Paciorek and put them third? You'll be hearing from me when my Sox win it all this October!
If Mike Krukow can win 12 or 15 games with the Phillies as a lefthander, then the Cubs indeed are lowly. Krukow pitches with his right hand.
Santa Monica, Calif.
I was shocked to see that you picked the Yankees to finish second in your scouting reports. Then the Yankees sent Dave LaRoche to the minors and traded Ron Davis away, and your pick seemed more realistic. With the addition of Roy Smalley, they have added another quality shortstop/third baseman who will rot on the bench as Larry Milbourne, Eric Soderholm and Aurelio Rodriguez are doing or have done.
New York City
You are wrong again. The Yankees will win the A.L. East.
Staten Island, N.Y.
Letters should include the name, address and home telephone number of the writer and be addressed to The Editor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.