LETTERS

September 21, 1997

I hope some NBA team will pick up Booger Smith so that he can
spread his love of the game to a few of his future greedy
teammates.
MATT MORRIS, Atherton, Calif.

PLAYGROUND HOOPS

What a joy it was to read Rick Telander's account of his return
to the blacktops of New York City (Asphalt Legends, Aug. 18). As
a former basketball recruiter, I can appreciate his tales of
young men trying to become legends and perhaps getting a chance
to attend college and escape the ghetto. Basketball is more than
a game. It's a struggle for recognition, acceptance and, in the
annals of the city's hoop lore, immortality.
BUD COLLINS, Anaheim Hills, Calif.

As a black male who teaches inner-city high school students, I
was overcome by the despondency that usually besets me when I
read tales of the black urban experience. While Telander
captured the feel of the game as it is played at street level,
he also conveyed the bleakness of his subjects' lives and the
futility of their ambitions. There is something awry when an
individual has reached manhood and continues to be known by a
cartoonish moniker such as Booger, Biz or Fly. It speaks to an
unwillingness to take oneself seriously, which allows for the
perpetuation of adolescence.
JOHN LA BONNE, New York City

From reading the article, I think a more accurate cover billing
would have been Loser on the Streets.
DAVID L. MIRKIN, South Bend, Ind.

CLOSERS

Closers (No Relief in Sight, Aug. 18) are the most overpaid
players in baseball, considering that they pitch little more
than 60 innings per year and that even teams without closers
lose far more games in innings one through eight than they do in
the ninth. Latecomers to that realization include the Texas
Rangers, who handed John Wetteland a four-year, $23 million
contract to plug what they considered their only hole. But to
sign him the Rangers parted with players like Kevin Elster and
Darryl Hamilton. As a result, they rarely get to Wetteland.
ERIK ENGQUIST, Brooklyn

Tom Verducci's statement that closers have "the most stressful
job" in baseball is out-of-date. Closers get the glory, but now
middlemen face the greatest pressure. Since closers routinely
pitch only in the ninth inning, coming in with a lead and no one
on base, they have a margin of error not enjoyed by middlemen.
While a closer can almost always allow at least one hit without
consequence, middlemen cannot, because they frequently enter
games that are tied and inherit men on base.
RANDALL SCHAU, Portage, Mich.

It's revealing that in Verducci's list of the top 10 closers
since 1969, four pitched for the Boston Red Sox and were traded:
Dennis Eckersley, Lee Smith, Jeff Reardon and Sparky Lyle.
DOC STARR, Newport, Vt.

ELVIS AND THE BABE

In the Aug. 18 POINT AFTER regarding the parallels between Babe
Ruth and Elvis Presley, another coincidence could have been
included: Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's home run record in 1974.
Elvis's middle name was Aaron.
MARK DOHERTY, Ottawa

Thank you for remembering that Babe Ruth also died on Aug. 16.
For the entire weekend I saw only Elvis movies, concerts,
memorabilia, etc. Nothing about the Babe. I guess people think
that the King of Rock-and-Roll is more important than the Sultan
of Swat.
RYAN LINDHURST, Clinton Township, Mich.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON Griffey is one of the prides of Cincy. [Ken Griffey Jr. batting]

CINCINNATI'S LINEUP

We read with interest the item describing Tampa as a baseball
hotbed (INSIDE BASEBALL, Aug. 11). We would still put an
all-Greater Cincinnati team up against that of any other metro
area. Here's our lineup.

1B Pete Rose
2B Bill Doran
CF Ken Griffey Jr.
RF Dave Parker
LF Dave Justice
SS Barry Larkin
3B Buddy Bell
C Jim Leyritz
SP Claude Osteen
SP Jim Bunning
RP Roger McDowell
RP Kent Tekulve

Eddie Brinkman, Leon Durham, Lance Johnson, Tim Naehring, Ron
Oester, Eduardo Perez, Bill Wegman and Jimmy Wynn are available
off the bench.
JOHN C. GREINER, MICHAEL R. MILLER Cincinnati

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)