At a time when we are reminded all too often of the vulnerability of young athletes and of their failures and tragedies, it is refreshing to read an article like Jill Lieber's on Los Angeles Raider running back Marcus Allen (On Top Of The Heap, As Always, Sept. 1). The story gives us a compassionate look into this extraordinary young man's life, and it also abounds with principles and ideals that have helped make this country great: courage, dedication and belief in self, God and family. I am not a Raider fan and never will be, but because of Lieber's special insights, I am now an Allen fan.
WILLIAM M. BALLANCE, D.D.S.
I can't help but admire Marcus Allen for his achievements. He is a young man who truly has it all, and yet he is unaffected by his status. I am touched by his example, and I hope that he will never change. He is one in a million.
I have one gripe. Granted, Allen is one of the premier running backs in the game today, and he is also quite versatile. But, the most versatile? No way! Lieber forgot about the soft-spoken giant who toils for a world champion team in the Windy City, Walter Payton.
ANTHONY V. CORRARO
New Haven, Conn.
Walter Payton's accomplishments have come with some of the worst teams in football. Maybe it's just my Chicago bias, but to me nobody does it better than Payton. And by the way, he has a $175,000 Lamborghini.
Park Ridge, Ill.
September 14, 1986
Where's the car? After the graphic description of Marcus Allen's "Testaroni," I've just got to see this machine.
•Take a look below.—ED.
Frank Deford mentioned (Doing Just Fine, My Man, Aug. 18) that the new custom sports car Chamberlain Searcher I is being designed by Peter Bohanna. Please, my man, equal credit should go to Richard Paul of Latham Superchargers, who is building the engine. Thanks.
As an avid San Francisco sports fan, I enjoyed Ron Fimrite's piece on Candlestick Park (Gone With The Wind?, Sept. 1). However, he failed to mention one of Candlestick's historic occasions: On Aug. 29, 1966, the Stick was the site of the last public concert by the Beatles. How was the weather that day? Was the Hawk one of the 25,000 who attended that performance?
Council Bluffs, Iowa
•According to Dave Craig, who handles group ticket sales at Candlestick and who was at the stadium the night of the concert, it was a pleasant evening, in the 70s, a little windy toward the end, but the Hawk didn't show. Let It Be.—ED.
I am a Giants fan, and I agree with those who believe that Candlestick is substandard. It is always too cold, too sunny, too windy or a combination of the above. If a new home isn't found for the Giants in the Bay Area, I think we can kiss those "kids" goodbye.
Ron Fimrite's story was a real eye-opener. From the things people hear and read about the Stick, they must think fans are paid to go to the games. Isn't it amazing how the Giants started to draw more fans when they put a decent team on the field? If the Giants can stay competitive, there will be a lot less talk about domes, moving downtown or going to another city.
When I, a lifelong National League fan, moved to San Francisco, I approached Candlestick Park with a degree of apprehension. For my first night game, my companion and I brought along down jackets, hats, gloves, etc. I've now been to a fair number of night games at the Stick, and you know what? It's not as cold as one is led to believe. If you want a cold ballpark, try Shea in April or on a frigid September evening.
The problem with the Giants is not their ballpark, it's their fans.
DOUGLAS W. FRIEDMAN
Since Candlestick has such a notorious reputation for its cold night weather, I thought I would heat up the debate, so to speak, by pointing out the warmest spots I've encountered at night as a Giant usherette: the lower boxes and the lower reserved seats of sections 5 and 7, between home and first base. But even if I were stationed 99% of the time in the coldest areas of the park—in the upper boxes near rightfield (commonly known as the Bob Uecker seats)—and always had to wear cotton in my ears, two sweaters, two pairs of socks, thermals and gloves, besides my regular uniform, I wouldn't give it up. As a photographer who was there in search of the typical San Francisco night fan said to me recently, "Although the people were bundled up, they were all smiling."
Great illustrations by John Huehnergarth! The humor he showed reminded me of an important side of sports—the light side. Fine work.
In reference to Willie Mays, Ron Fimrite notes, "It is often said that if he and Hank Aaron could have exchanged ballparks, there would be a different alltime home run king."
This is a common piece of folk wisdom that baseball fans repeat about these great players, and Mays himself has been quoted as saying that playing in Candlestick cost him 10 or 15 home runs per year. However, the facts clearly refute this legend. Mays played 12 full seasons in Candlestick, and in 8 of them he hit more home runs at home than on the road. The full story is made available by the statistical breakdowns in The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, which reveal that Mays hit 202 homers at Candlestick and 194 on the road during his San Francisco years.
We don't have to go far to find a player whose home run totals were clearly hurt by a ballpark that was his home for the major portion of his career. That player was Aaron. He spent 14 seasons in Milwaukee's County Stadium, where he had 195 home runs, while hitting 225 on the road. Aaron's Atlanta years compensated for the home runs he lost while spending the prime of his career in a pitcher's park. The final totals: Aaron, 385 round trippers at home, 370 on the road; Mays, 335 at home, 325 on the road.
Aaron is the greater home run hitter.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
I just finished E.M. Swift's article on the New Orleans Saints (Is It A Sin For Saints To Win?, Aug. 25) and I'm not laughing, I'm not crying, I'm not even angry. Everything he said is true. For 19 seasons now, NFL teams and their fans have been laughing as the Saints fumbled and stumbled their way through games. This season will be different. The Saints are going to have a winning season. And one year—soon—they will be champions of the entire NFL. New Orleans will throw a party that will put other championship celebrations to shame, and the only laughing heard will be that of Louisianians.
LLOYD MANSION JR.
After reading John Garrity's article about bugs and baseball (How Bugs Drive Baseball Batty, Aug. 18), I felt I had to relate a buggy story of my own.
In 1978 in the small Arizona town of Oracle, north of Tucson, the local Little League was sponsoring a softball tournament under the lights when there was a great infestation of flying ants. Now, Arizonans are no strangers to bugs, because the desert is home to just about every creepy, crawly, flying thing in creation, but this was something special. In the middle of one game, I noticed an unusual number of flying ants swarming around every light in the park. About 10 minutes later, the field was hit by an unbelievable swarm of ants. They were so thick, the pitcher appeared to be only a shadow, and everybody was flailing uncontrollably, trying to clear away the insects; of course the game was stopped. Then suddenly all the ants died, and the entire area was covered with about an inch of dead bugs—home plate, automobiles and everything in the snack bar. It remains to this day the most remarkable phenomenon I have ever seen.
DAVID S. JOHNSON
Garrity did an outstanding job of reporting on a facet of outdoor games often overlooked; it is one aspect everyone gets annoyed by. Remember at the PGA Championship this year, Peter Jacobsen putted with a fly on his ball- and made it?
I have another bug story and it's not a tall tale. About four or five years ago, I was involved in a fast-pitch softball game at Gila Bend, Ariz., when a mass of migrating green leafhoppers floated through the field. The cloud was so thick that the outfielders couldn't see the ball, and batters were swinging at anything for fear of being hit by a pitch. Reports the next day indicated that the cloud of bugs reached 3 miles high and 5 miles wide and eventually covered a distance of some 20 miles. The explanation for the phenomenon was that the leafhoppers' breeding site had dried up.
DAVID B. NICKEL
Edwards AFB, Calif.
I really enjoyed the article, but you failed to mention any stories about foreign pests. I have heard that the mosquitoes in some of the Japanese ballparks are so big they have air force insignia on their wings. And they say that in one of the Mexican leagues a game was called off because termites ate the bats-of both teams.
VINCE DEL GAVIO
Most of your stories are good, but what was your reason for a five-page report on bugs? Now, come on!
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