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Original Issue

19TH HOLE: The readers take over

After reading your article Olmedo: The Enigma of Tennis (SI, Sept. 7), I feel that it needs correction in a few minor respects, as it relates to the so-called Olmedo incident during the National Clay Courts matches at River Forest.

First, while it may be significant for Mr. Murray's character analysis, the truth is that Alex was recognized instantly when he appeared at the club gate, and greeted by the tournament press chief, Bob Kubicek. Alex refused to enter and wanted to know only the directions to a sporting goods company, where he was to meet Perry Jones.

Second, it was the River Forest Tennis Club, the National Clay Courts Tournament, the game of tennis and the spectators who were insulted by Alex, not vice versa. The tennis club planned the largest welcome that had ever been shown to a visiting player. Dr. Oscar Benavides, Peruvian Consul General in Chicago, more than a hundred Peruvians living in the Chicago area, and tournament officials planned to meet Olmedo at the airport. All this fell through when Alex declined to inform us of his arrival time and, in fact, refused telephone calls in New York when we tried to find out his arrival time. We at the River Forest Tennis Club pride ourselves upon the welcome and attention to all players.

Third, he did not "have" to play four matches in one day but rather insisted upon it after winning the first three easily. The ostensible reason was that he would thereby be ready for Segal the next day. It is notable that his fourth opponent said to the Invitations Chairman, "Gee whiz, Mr. Evans, I think Alex was trying to lose to me, but I was so bad he just couldn't." The significance of this was lost until the following day.

Fourth, he said an official "started" the booing. This is completely false.

Finally, Alex's quote implied that the River Forest Club puts on the tennis tournament for money. This is simply ludicrous. Several hundred of our members spend thousands of hours from January of each year preparing for the tournament. These same workers also subscribe for the season and box-seat tickets which underwrite the expenses. Sixty percent of the gross profit goes to the USLTA, 10% to the Western Association and 10% to the Chicago Association; the balance of 20% goes to the club. In 1958 the club received less than $20 from the tournament!

The RFTC members do this work in the interest of promoting amateur tennis. Alex in just one hour did more harm to tennis than can be measured.
General chairman, USLTA
Clay Court Championships
River Forest, Ill.

"The life of a tennis player is hard. People think it is fun. It isn't." With this quote from Olmedo, James Murray ends his excellent portrait of the tennis "enigma." Isn't it about time that the fun was put back in tennis? It used to be fun, you know. Tournaments, except for the big international and national events, used to be informal and relaxed; the game itself emphasized strategy and change of pace.

I think the promoters have taken over the game as they have so many other sports. Big and little self-perpetuating chairmen of this or that committee are organizing ever more elaborate tournaments, putting the pressure on overplayed competitors to appear for "their" tournament and generally making their presences felt.

They do it, so they tell us, for "the good of tennis" and players better cooperate in playing in "their" tournaments and participating in all the mishmash of receptions and ceremonies because "look what tennis had done for them."

Well, what has modern tennis done for them? I think we are in an era of confused kids rapidly brought to their top form by eager promoters of the "amateur" game, who stay there for a year or two to win the necessary handful of titles to turn pro and make $100,000. That done, I suspect they will disappear quietly and be lost to tennis because, as Olmedo and others have testified, over the pressure-laden years they lost their love for the game.

If the organizers of tennis are serious in their constantly reiterated claim that they are out to make tennis a truly national game then they are setting about it the wrong way. Tennis needs participants, not spectators. The Junior Chamber of Commerce, with its local and regional tennis programs, does a far greater job, quietly and effectively, than all the Perry Joneses, big and little, will ever do.

The game itself is getting dull. The big serve with only a feeble return or none at all has emasculated the game. How many times do we read that so-and-so won the match because "he was able to break his opponent's serve"? That's tennis?

If we can't get the promoters out and make tennis fun again, then let's get professional managers in to run a professional sport. Perry Jones, who reminds me more and more of Cus D'Amato, can manage his tigers openly, pay them a decent wage and they will no longer have to wonder what in heaven's name made them take up a sport that consumes their lives, pays nothing and earns them as much abuse as praise. Personally, I have the greatest sympathy for Alex Olmedo, whose values are not nearly as "confused" as those of the people who run tennis.
Omaha, Neb.

Much has been made of Olmedo's performance at the River Forest Tennis Club. I think the tournament officials and the press should be reminded by someone that Olmedo is an amateur player, presumed to play for the love of the game. Certainly his actions on the court were bad manners. But to berate him and crucify him for the bad performance, to have a newspaper editorialize against him and officials claim that he is "bad" for tennis is quite out of keeping.

The trouble lies in tennis' wicked dichotomy: on the one hand, a huge organizational and promotional machine fighting for its share of public attention; on the other, a handful of youngsters with a relatively small vested interest in the game without whom the whole thing would collapse. To me tennis today is the most hypocritical sport in the world.
Toledo, Ohio

Alex Olmedo might have been again given to moods at Forest Hills, but remember, it was Barry MacKay who lost the decisive match.

MacKay's overconfidence ("I'll win tomorrow, you can count on it" and his statement to Perry Jones that he felt he could beat any amateur in the world) combined with Perry Jones's talk of five in a row, I think, were just as much to blame.

Talbert says that this was not a mere psychological thrust but that there appeared sound reasoning for such an optimistic outlook.

To me, that is about the dumbest psychology possible. It might be good promotional fare in professional boxing, but in amateur sports it is an excellent way to get your ears pinned back.
Bala-Cynwyd, Pa.

Everything Olmedo says about playing amateur tennis is certainly true. This boy has been exploited by Mr. Jones and American tennis. Look for the parallel between his case and that of Pancho Gonzales.

Tennis is schizophrenic, therefore unhappy. On the one hand there are generous handouts for the top amateurs. On the other, there is poverty and sweat for the underdogs. As in boxing, the latter are "opponents" who can't win but will put up a game against the stars. Everyone in tennis knows this and the time for a change is now.

For years we blamed the eastern moguls. Now, with the West in command, where is the improvement? Mr. Jones certainly was out of his depth in the Davis Cup matches, as Murray implies. The evil practices, according to Olmedo, have not ceased. Exactly what are we going to do about it?
Studio City, Calif.

Roderick Haig-Brown's article on the Pacific salmon (The Fish That Runs in Millions, SI, Sept. 7) was a masterpiece. My only disappointment was that it was too short. His lyric yet disciplined style, his profound firsthand knowledge of fish and nature made this the most enjoyable reading in a long time. I wish you would furnish Mr. Haig-Brown with an air travel credit card and an expense account and turn him loose all over this country and Canada. The results should be worthwhile to you and your readers.
New York City

He really knows his fish, his history and obviously loves angling as much as weekend fishermen whose occasional catch provides the memories for a lifetime.

From where we sat watching our little ol' 21-inch optic, it seems that your Martin Kane is giving Brother Fullmer just a little bit too much credit for skill that might have been labeled a fortunate combination of fleetness and fear (Victory According to Plan A, SI, Sept. 7).

We've been told many times, of course, that we cannot really see a fight on TV, but it still looked to us as though Fullmer throughout most of the recent contest was in the unenviable position of a stranger caught in the wrong corner of the bar when the bottles started to fly, and was just plumb lucky that some of his frantic efforts to escape happened to bear fruit, and that Basilio, in his efforts to make the fight, was a little short on aim.

One of these days we hope to see a scrapper like Basilio take the sensible view of an affair like the last and let the backward 50-yard dash experts come to him. It may make a long and boring evening, but perhaps it could be arranged in several parts, like the spectaculars.
Oak Ridge, Tenn.

I had intended not to renew my subscription to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (much as I love it) because I should read less and rest my eyes more. But the wonderful photograph of one of my favorite Dodgers, Don Drysdale (Dodger Dandy, SI, Aug. 31), made me decide to renew. I do not know Don personally, but because of his reputation for sounding off this season I would like to draw attention to an act of real sportsmanship. When a dropped fly ball in Milwaukee recently prevented his being the winning pitcher, he did not complain. Following the game, he went out of his way to praise the ability of the boy who had dropped the ball, and Don was happy over the Dodger victory.
Riverside, Calif.

For your desperate suburbanite readers beset with starlings (EVENTS & DISCOVERIES, Aug. 31), I offer the solution evolved after a staff conference at Fort Bragg, N.C. in the best traditions of the Army—for what that's worth.

At one unusually long staff conference the Chief of Staff said in a clear, loud voice, "Sandy! We have a letter from one of the ladies of the garrison stating that she is very much concerned about the vast number of starlings that have taken over the post. She further states that it is well known that starlings are a menace to songbirds and are known to drive them out of the area. The lady suggests that something be done to get rid of these pests, and offers to help. Sandy, I'm bucking this to you for necessary action."

I was stunned. I knew a starling when I saw one, of course, and the mess they can make, but their evil influence on the life of songbirds was beyond me. I said, "General, sir, I'm just a city boy. I know very little about birds, and I would welcome suggestions from some of you country boys—generals and colonels present-as to methods of getting rid of these pests."

It appeared to be playtime. From the group came such suggestions as, "You've got money, Sandy—buy some stuffed owls and put them in the trees." "Have your electrical crew wire the trees with shock power." "Ask the provost marshal to provide a shotgun party." "Turn out the fire department, ringing bells and sounding sirens." And so forth and so forth.

The following Monday the staff conference again took place.

"Sandy!" shouted the C. of S. "What have you to report on a plan to eliminate the starlings on this post that chase away the songbirds and generally make such a racket and mess that they're a bloody nuisance?"

"Sir," I replied. "I have received many notes of advice, but out of the lot I have decided to act on that received from the lady of the garrison—to wit, to fill cooky tins with crankcase oil and birdseed lavishly sprinkled thereon. It is believed that starlings eating this mess will become infertile and so no longer be a nuisance to this post. The ingredients are ready for use; the provost marshal is ready to place the lethal weapons wherever starlings gather—together with neatly lettered signs to be placed behind each cooky tin. In order to make certain that songbirds of the post do not partake of this luscious meal which might make them sterile or their eggs infertile, the sign clearly states, FOR STARLINGS ONLY."
Lieut. Colonel, USA (ret.)
Fayetteville, N.C.

The clear-eyed, healthy, wholesome and natural beauty of Joanne DiMaggio Webber (PAT ON THE BACK, Sept. 7) was one of the finest surprise dividends ever supplied by your excellent magazine.

The DiMaggios are quite a clan.
Plainfield, N.J.