Letters

April 25, 2004

Spell Check

I was proud and nervous to see my beloved Cubs picked on the
cover of SI to win the World Series (BASEBALL PREVIEW 2004, April
5). I thought that, while the billy goat curse is ending because
of the explosion of the Bartman ball, the fatal SI cover jinx is
now on the Cubs. Then I realized that since the issue was
delivered on April Fool's Day, the jinx may be null and void. So,
it's all gravy, baby--the hexes are over!
BRIAN M. RAINVILLE, Springfield, Mo.

Stats All, Folks

Statistics have become baseball's Frankenstein's monster. In Does
Clutch Hitting Truly Exist? (April 5), Joe Sheehan of Baseball
Prospectus says the "need to turn physics and physicality into a
statement about the character of people ... is the most damning
thing about the myth of the clutch." If players are nothing more
than statistical machines, doomed to perform at neither more nor
less than their capabilities, why do we watch them play? The
human spirit, helping athletes overcome adversity and strive for
excellence, is what makes the game great. Revering statistics as
baseball gospel dehumanizes every man who laces up his cleats.
MICHAEL P. BISCHOFF, Madison, Wis.

So instead of building a team by grooming young players with
sound fundamentals, we should be paying attention to VORP, LIPS
and OPS? If you give me a group of players who can put the ball
in play, move runners, hit the cutoff man, change speeds and keep
the ball down, I'll give you a team that puts up big numbers in
the only column that really counts: wins.
ZAK REDDING
Madison, Wis.

In Smart Stats, Dumb Stats (April 5) you compare batting average
to vinyl albums, showing how antiquated the measure is. On the
next page batting average is used to prove that clutch hitters
don't exist. I'm not convinced. I still want Derek Jeter up there
when we're down by two and there are runners on base.
JOHN MATHEWS, New York City

Losing Face

Twenty-five years after finishing my training in ophthalmology,
one curious fact persists in my middle-aged memory: Virtually
every professional ice hockey player sustains at least one
serious eye or facial injury during his career. The April 5
Leading Off, a catalog of hockey wounds, could serve as lecture
material for med students. In contrast, the junior and collegiate
hockey experience is taught as a model of sports-injury
prevention. Since helmets and full face shields became mandatory
in the 1970's, injury rates to the face and eyes have approached
zero.
DR. STEPHEN H. URETSKY, Linwood, N.J.

April Is the Cruelest Month

Congratulations on another creative hoax. I read with relish Roy
Blount Jr.'s As So Often Happens? (April 5) mostly because I'm
always intrigued by coincidences, but the math seemed a little
queer from the beginning. LOOFA (Lead Off/Outstanding Fielding
Alignment) occurred 41% of the time between 1900 and 1930. Of
what time, I asked myself? Forty-one percent of the time batters
lead off, they have made a spectacular play? Forty-one percent of
plays in the field yield leadoff at bats by the same gloveman?
What defines a great play mathematically, anyway? The numbers
kept coming up odd: 40.1%, another 41%, then the absurd .041%. I
started thinking of George Plimpton and Sidd Finch. The name of
Jung's "protegee" Willamae Happ was too bizarre and a little too
close to the happenstance theme of the article. There's another 4
and 1 in the percentage (14) lefties' LOOFAs dropped when facing
lefty pitching. Then I got it: The '41 Society! 4/1 is April 1st,
April fool! Lead Off/Outstanding Fielding Alignment is A-FOOL
backward. The reverse of LIRPA (Leadoff of Inning after
Remarkable Putout or Assist) is APRIL. Juan Abril is April One.
Avery Pfuhl, come on. In baseball's first game, April 1, 1871,
Gene Kimball led off the "top of the fourth." I'm sure there are
more subtle clues. Very clever, all.
LARS RUSSELL, Jersey City, N.J.

Kenneth Yorik's study intrigued me. I contacted Professor Hayden
(Sidd) Finch, who teaches theory at an undisclosed university in
Nepal. His response: "Yorik only used data in describing
noteworthy occurrences", theorist Finch observed. "Obviously,
luck means everything."
DAVID BRESS, Sharpsville, Pa.

FOURTH AND LONG

In your story Greatest Hits (April 5) you say "with two outs ...
Rosy Ryan strikes out Babe Ruth," and then Bob Meusel follows
"with a two-run single." I've always suspected that the Yankees
play under different rules from everybody else, but that
accomplishment would have been the No. 1 alltime clutch hit.
RICHARD LIPP, Lenexa, Kans.

--Ruth's strikeout was the second out. SI regrets the error.--ED.

COLOR PHOTO: BRAD MANGIN (COVER) B/W PHOTO: UNDERWOOD & UNDERWOOD/CORBIS CLUTCH HITTER Meusel hit .311 in 10 years as a Yankees outfielder.

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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)