April 14, 2002

Batters Up

Oh, the agony! After spending all winter trying to erase from my
mind the image of Luis Gonzalez's World Series-winning bloop
single, I open my mailbox to see Jason Giambi on the front of
your Baseball 2002 Preview (March 25)! For the second straight
year a Yankee on your cover and a championship prediction for the
Bronx Bombers. Coincidence? Or a subversive plot to keep the
Yanks from claiming World Series title number 27? The fans in
Boston and Queens are surely rejoicing.
LOIS A. WITKOP, Alexandria, Va.

I see your writers went way out on a limb and predicted that the
Yankees, White Sox, Mariners, Braves, Cardinals and Diamondbacks
would be this year's division winners. Unfortunately, they're
probably right. How sad it is for baseball when before a pitch
has been thrown, we can be reasonably confident about which teams
will still be playing in October.
MARK KOPP, Parsippany, N.J.

Remember The New Face of Baseball cover (July 17, 2000),
featuring Jason Giambi. He had long hair falling in his face,
goatee running wild, sleeveless shirt displaying his
flaming-skull tattoo. Wicked! There's a man to sell baseball. And
now? A clean-shaven Giambi with well-trimmed hair and a crisp new
Bombers cap. Chalk up another soulless victory in October for the
army of Herr Steinbrenner.

What did Montrealers do to deserve losing the Expos? They were
guilty of not tripping over themselves to spend hundreds of
millions for a new ballpark, bringing with it higher ticket
prices, just to keep up with the big-money clubs. If Major League
Baseball had threatened contraction six years earlier, chances
are pretty good that the Brewers would have been one of the teams
considered for elimination. I guess it's all in the timing, eh,
JAMIE JUST, Brentwood, Calif.

Ruling Class

Hitters do not rule (Hitters Rule, March 25). Pitching is the key
to winning. Compare what all the sluggers on last year's Rangers
did for Texas with what Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did for
Arizona, and the point is easily seen.
Doug Barthold
Fly Creek, N.Y.

Smaller ballparks, creatine, andro, maple bats and pitchers not
being allowed to throw inside are making offensive stats a
mockery. Quit making a travesty of the game. Raise the mound!
RICK MCINTYRE, Tomahawk, Wis.

More to Chew On

I've given up addictive drugs and smoking, and have been sober
for nearly four years. However, despite having a loving wife and
a beautiful six-month-old daughter, I spend upward of $1,400 a
year on smokeless tobacco (THE LIFE OF REILLY, March 18), and I
can't quit. I'm 33 years old, and I regret having started dipping
more than I regret any of the other stupid mistakes that I've
made in the past. I blame no one but myself and hope that someday
I can win the toughest battle I've ever faced.
TOM KLICH, West Berlin, N.J.

Remarkably you provided your own Sign of the Apocalypse when you
decided to run an ad for smokeless tobacco opposite Rick Reilly's
column one week after he spelled out the dangers associated with
using chewing tobacco.

Even though Brad Rodu's letter in your April 1 issue made the
factual observation that the dangers of smokeless tobacco are
less severe than Rick Reilly's article suggested, Rodu sent a
horrible message to teenagers everywhere. I am a 16-year-old who
has never used drugs, and I can picture many kids my age reading
this letter and getting the message that it is O.K. to use
smokeless tobacco. That could not be further from the truth. The
reality is, no matter how much smokeless tobacco's harmfulness
was exaggerated, nicotine is still a drug, and it is harmful.
ARAM DEMIRJIAN, Lexington, Mass.

I am compelled to write after Brad Rodu's response to Rick
Reilly's recent article in SI about spit tobacco. I am concerned
that Rodu's letter has sent the wrong message to your readers.
Spit tobacco users have at least a 300% greater risk of getting
oral cancer than nonusers, and the more one uses, or the longer
one uses, the greater the risk. Also, studies have shown spit
tobacco to be associated with gum recession, tooth decay and
hypertension. With the alarmingly high use of spit tobacco,
particularly among the young, widespread knowledge about these
hazardous effects is very important. The public should not be
fooled into thinking that because a tobacco product is called
smokeless it is harmless. It is not! It is dangerous, it is
addictive and possibly deadly. In fact, several years ago the
U.S. Surgeon General suggested that the term spit tobacco be used
instead of smokeless tobacco, to avoid the harmless connotation
of the term smokeless, which was cleverly coined by the tobacco
industry. Clearly smokeless tobacco products are not a safe
alternative to cigarettes. Yet a major emphasis of Rodu's
research is the use of smokeless tobacco as an alternative to
cigarettes, an approach he recommends despite the availability of
safe alternatives such as nicotine gum or patches. Finally, it is
important to point out that Rodu neglected to say in his response
that his work has been supported in part by an unrestricted gift
from the United States Tobacco Co. to the Tobacco Research Fund
of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
JOHN C. GREENE, San Rafael, Calif.
Retired Deputy Surgeon General
U.S. Public Health Service


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