In his story about Cardinal shortstop Ozzie Smith (No. 1 in his Field, Sept. 28), Ron Fimrite overlooked one curious aspect of Wizard worship.
This is an article from the Oct. 26, 1987 issue
During my visits to Busch Stadium, I have been struck by how inured to his greatness the fans have become. A miraculous stop that would prompt wild cheering in other cities receives polite applause in St. Louis. Smith has so raised the expectations that he now must rob a batter of a base hit and start a double play by tossing the ball behind his back before the crowd will give him his due.
Pity the poor mortal who one day replaces him.
New York City
Rarely has a magazine piece hit a nail so squarely on the head as did Frank Deford's POINT AFTER (Sept. 21). As a longtime fan and admirer of the Orioles, I often had wondered the same thing: Why didn't anybody hate them in their heyday? As Deford so ably pointed out, the answer lay in the O's hallmark—their beauty and perfection afield. Watching the Orioles perform then was like listening to a symphony orchestra give an inspired performance. Rowdy rabidism was plainly inappropriate.
MARC H. FOLLADORI
To believe that the Orioles are dead is to give up, and to give up is to quit—definitely not a trait of the true Baltimore O's fan. It is only a matter of time before the old magic takes hold again and the team that was in decline starts winning once more.
Woods Hole, Mass.
HARVEY SCHMEDLAP & CO.
In his account of the Denver Broncos-Seattle Seahawks game (The Broncos Were Boffo, Sept. 21), Rick Reilly alluded to the players' strike and the possibility that Broncomaniacs might have to settle for Harvey Schmedlap, former NYU Business School flag football star, to champion their cause. It is well known to flag football aficionados that Schmedlap is over the hill, weak of limb and demanding too much money. A better alternative would be to take half the money Schmedlap would get and bring in the world-famous Naval Legal Service Office, Mayport, Fla., flag team (No. 1 in the Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps League). We kick 50-yard field goals the old-fashioned (straight-ahead) way and we line up in excruciatingly complex offensive formations. Plus, we do our own laundry. It's not just a job, it's an adventure.
Lieut. Commander, JAGC, USN
Reilly's reference to Harvey Schmedlap suggests that NYU is a producer of less-than-top-grade professional football talent. As a loyal NYU alumnus and a former sports editor of the school's paper, I take umbrage. Need I remind you that in 1928 Ken Strong of the Violets led the country in scoring, with 22 touchdowns and 28 points after for 160 points? At 6'1" and 210 pounds, he ran the 100 in 10 seconds flat. Strong played professional football for 12 years, scoring 545 points—351 of them for the Giants, including 17 in the 1934 championship game against Bronko Nagurski's Chicago Bears. (The Giants won 30-13.)
ALAN M. POLANGER
During Bill Nack's interview of my client, Marvelous Marvin Hagler ("Let the World Know I'm O.K.," Sept. 28), in which I participated mainly as an observer making an occasional comment, Nack asked me why Hagler had not sued Boston television sportscaster John Dennis if Dennis's allegations of cocaine use or abuse by Hagler were, as Hagler has insisted, untrue. My response was that, under present law, it is difficult for a public figure like Hagler to prevail in a defamation action.
Since allegations of drug abuse will no doubt continue to plague Hagler, I respectfully request that you publish this letter, so Hagler's millions of boxing fans will have the additional perspective of knowing how a public figure must often resist the commonsense urge to (forgive my robust First Amendment exercise) "sue the bastards."
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has the undoubted right to publish unfavorable information about Hagler. A healthy debate about the scourge of cocaine in American society—and in the sports world in particular—is desirable and deserves wide publicity. But your readers must not draw an incorrect conclusion from Marvelous Marvin Hagler's decision to let his present and future conduct speak for itself. He has been enormously successful by handling adversity in this way in the past. Do not bet against him now.
MORRIS M. GOLDINGS
Thank you for Jack McCallum's outstanding article on books about sports and athletes (Jock Lit, Sept. 21). I was especially pleased that you recognized Jim Brosnan's The Long Season as "arguably the most significant sports book of all time." Brosnan's in-the-trenches account of baseball life was written nearly 30 years ago, and although contemporary social mores did not permit publication of the gutter language now commonly found in such books, The Long Season and Brosnan's Pennant Race hold up remarkably well as both sport and sociological literature. It's good to know that Broz has enjoyed greater longevity with his pen than he did with his slider.
In his otherwise estimable piece, Jack McCallum should have mentioned Joe H. Palmer. Few, if any, newspapermen wrote better or more entertainingly than did the Professor. Palmer's This Was Racing should be required reading for all students of writing. And, really, Red Smith deserves much, much more than a passing reference. Both Palmer and Smith were really sportswriters. And aren't we lucky they were?
Cape Coral, Fla.
How could McCallum leave W.P. Kinsella's wonderful novel, Shoeless Joe, out of his article? The book is intelligently written and as magical and dream-inspiring as a child's first look at a professional ballpark (was dirt ever as brown, or grass as green?). Besides, any work that includes the mythical kidnapping of J.D. Salinger, who is then hauled off to a Red Sox game, is certainly worthy of as much space as, say, a McMahon! If Dan Jenkins's work is a must read (and his two Billy Clyde Puckett books are), then Kinsella's novel is a gotta read.
TOM D. ROBINSON
I was astonished to read: "The idea for McMahon! came to Warner from, of all places, Burns Celebrity Service in Chicago." Burns Sports Celebrity Service has packaged and served as agent for more than 250 sports books in the past 16 years. In the past five years, our Burns Sports Literary Service has generated about 25 of the major sports books published in America, including The Mick, a national bestseller in 1985.
Burns Sports Literary Service
I enjoyed the article. However, if you are going to tweak jocks for their exclamatory predilections, you should acknowledge that even serious writers indulge in title punctuation. Thomas Pynchon's novel is V., not V (without a period).
NOT DONE IN!
In a picture caption accompanying your story on the 1987 World Track and Field Championships (On Top of the Worlds, Sept. 14), you said, "The sweltering weather did in walkers like Jim Heiring." Well, I'm walker Jim Heiring, and for your information the "sweltering weather" did not do me in. In fact, my time of 4:03:34 in the 50-kilometer race was almost four minutes faster than my previous personal record. Only three other Americans have done better. The medical staffers assisting me were there as a precaution; I had strained my knee after 42 kilometers.
CHURCHILL ON GOLF
Proving what a man did not say is impossible, I suppose, but it is a myth that Winston Churchill created the phrase that golf consists of "putting little balls into little holes with instruments ill adapted to the purpose" (Has Golf Gotten Too Groovy? Aug. 3).
As far as anybody knows, Churchill never said anything at all about golf. The quotation actually comes from Horace G. Hutchinson's classic work Golf, from the Badminton Library series on sports and games. The phrase originated with Hutchinson's logic tutor at Oxford. The book was published in 1890, when Hutchinson was 31 and presumably had been out of Oxford for a number of years. Churchill was 15, still playing with toy soldiers at Blenheim Palace.
ROBERT T. SOMMERS
Editor and Publisher
Far Hills, N.J.
•Although the phrase does not belong to Churchill, his lack of regard for golf is documented. According to Irrepressible Churchill, "a treasury of Winston Churchill's wit" edited by Kay Halle (World Publishing Company, New York, 1966), Churchill, shown left during a round at Cannes in 1913, found the game boring and said it was "like chasing a quinine pill around a cow pasture."—ED.
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