THE HARD WAY
I've just read your article on Jimmy Jacobs (Really the Greatest, March 7). Good luck to the Boy Wonder in his fight against Mr. Emotion. May his control system ever triumph over the likes of Mr. Right and Mr. Left. His stock of old comic books should provide much amusement in his old age—that is, if he ever grows up.
JOHN R. O'ROURKE
I thought I had been carefully schooled in the rules for handball greatness:
1) Be a braggart—especially off court.
2) Be a debater—particularly on hinders and shadow balls.
3) Hit the ball—incidental to playing.
Your article on Jim Jacobs added another: Read Batman.
E. H. STIER
The title, Really the Greatest, prompted this letter, because Jimmy has to reign supreme for a good many more years before he comes close to the record set by my father, Charlie Baker.
From the age of 28 until he was 48 my father was never defeated. What is more, he played the original game with a ball the size of a golf ball and made like a baseball—leather covered, hand stitched and hard!
Oldtime handball players disdained the use of gloves as detracting from the proper "feel" and finesse for a properly played shot. It was always necessary to put the hands in very hot water before playing, in order to get swelling and blood circulation—otherwise, a bone bruise would be a certainty.
Nor are the speeds of the two games comparable. If you drop a hard handball and a rubber handball on the floor, the rubber ball bounces higher. But if they are both propelled against a cement wall with great speed, the rebound of the rubber ball is limited by the degree of its compressibility, whereas the rebound speed of the hard ball depends almost entirely on the speed with which it is hit into the wall. Champion players could make it come off the front wall like a bullet. In the four-wall hard-ball game, placements, the "kill" and "English" on the ball were more important, and skillful serves aimed at the back corner produced aces not possible in the rubber-ball game.
To finish up about my father, he also won the Illinois State tennis title at age 17 and a year later met Bill Larned in the quarterfinals of the Nationals. Dad beat Larned one set and was leading in the second when he suffered a sunstroke and had to default.
Dad was also national checkers champion.
CHARLES J. BAKER
At one time, during the late '20s and early '30s, San Francisco could boast more handball courts (four-wall, three-wall, one-wall, sides of buildings, warehouses, fire stations, garages, Chinese laundries, etc.) than any other city in the world. Had Jimmy Jacobs been around there then he would have had to play against Al Banuet (pronounced Ban-yu-ay) who was really the greatest. AI could have spotted Jacobs from three to seven points, given Jimmy the first serve, played to only 15 points and won.
TWO EARS AND A TALE
Liz Smith rates an ¬°Olé! along with two ears and a tail (hooves are no longer cut in Spain, your SPCA readers will be happy to learn) for her entertaining article, No Blood, Some Tears, A Sweat of Money (March 7).
But the "bloodless" bullfights in Houston were not without fault. Bullfighting is an art which was meant to be seen and understood in its entirety. If any part is omitted for any reason, legal or otherwise, it becomes almost a farce. Pop art is interesting and fun, but it is never true art. That a good matador (he is not the best, by a long shot) like Paco Camino would appear is not so strange, when one considers his $100,000 salary. Antonio Ordó√±ez, on the other hand, who is the world's greatest bullfighter in style and classic form, was not present.
Miss Smith was guilty of one or two incorrect statements in her article. Soccer no longer is Spain's top attraction. The antics of El Cordobés have, at least, returned bullfighting to the top in attendance and interest. Furthermore, the bloodless corridas of Las Vegas last year were not the first in this country. In the 1920s similar exhibitions were held at Coney Island.
Miss Smith also said that the banderillas "disorient" the bull. Incorrect. The purpose of "the darts" is, on the contrary, to orient the bull, to correct some of the deficiencies of his charge, as well as to weaken the neck muscles. But all in all, she earned her ¬°Olés!
New York City
Liz Smith's article on Houston's corrida incruenta made interesting reading, but it was misleading in that Texans did not, as she said, see as many excellent matadors as would be seen in a Mexican plaza all season. That same weekend I saw, during the annual bullfight festival in Guadalajara, three of the top 10 Spanish matadors for 1965 (El Pireo, El Viti and Jaime Ostos) and at least four Mexicans (Manuel Capetillo, Raul García, Alfredo Leal and Jaime Rangel) who are far-higher rated than the border town hotshots who appeared in Houston. Matadors like Jaime Bravo can't even get on the cartel in Mexico City, Guadalajara and other major plazas in the interior. And as for rejoneadores, Guadalajara had only one to Houston's four, but that one was Carlos Arruza, one of the greatest alltime toreros.
Paco Camino was the only real figura at Houston, but not many aficionados in Spain or Mexico would any longer rate him as Numero Uno. He's still young, but he's already considered past his peak.
ROBERT C. GILKEY
ON THE ROCKS
May I add to the diatribes that will undoubtedly greet Mr. Tom C. Brody's article on women's curling, Belly Whopper to a Take-out Win (Feb. 28)? If I were one of the ladies from St. Paul, I would arrange for a meeting in a dark alley with the writer. They are the rink members who are portrayed as the "outcasts" with their serious approach to an ancient and convivial sport. I wonder how long it will be before they flop their way through another bonspiel.
I am not a lady curler! But I qualify as an expert spectator by virtue of my husband's avid interest and participation in the game. Curling is primarily a social sport! It was conceived for enjoyment and fraternizing equally as much as for athletic prowess. Years ago the winners of a bonspiel almost "apologized" when accepting their medals or trophies. A recent back injury has kept me off the ice, but I would undoubtedly be persona non grata anyway, because I have a strong tendency to play games to win.
J. S. BATZER
New York City
I have not had such a laugh in a long time—being an old curler myself from way up in northeastern Ontario. I curled for 14 years as skip, and curling is the one thing I miss here in California.
The article is written so beautifully and with such crackling humor I most thoroughly enjoyed it. Every "draw play" and "whangbang" I saw in my mind's eye. Such terms are a joy to see and certainly give the game a great lift and make it even more exciting and, as in all amateur sports, spur one on to greater ambitions for the next year.
La Jolla, Calif.
Your word picture of women's curling is a gross misconception of a grand old game We in the Midwest feel that you have done us a great disservice. We women curlers dc not strive for "elegance," as Mr. Brody implies—we strive for excellence. The use of the words "social" and "socializing" and the reference to "sipping a Bloody Mar) before 8 a.m." certainly place an emphasis that cannot be justified.
The very first sentence of the article is perhaps further from the truth than any other. Curling, like most sports, is a great leveler of people. When women take to the ice, their backgrounds or bankrolls are of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is their ability. Curling enthusiasts come from all walks of life—some from small midwestern farms, some from the executive suites of large eastern corporations. If a "chic Easterner" said, "Oh my, they're so serious," I can only say if you're playing in the finals of a first event in a national tournament you had better be serious. Mrs. Taylor had four women who devoted hours to practicing the game and concentrating on a style of play that could win the national title. She came to the tournament with one purpose—to win—as I am sure all 128 women did.
MRS. T. A. BRUETT
U.S. Women's Curling Assn.
Is there any journalistic excuse for such an "inelegant" article?
MARY M. DEGEN
As one who has skied with a group in Sestriere three times and who has always stayed at the Duchi d'Aosta, I thoroughly enjoyed your article, The Mickey Mouse Olympics (SI, Feb. 28). It reminded me of our FIS competition, First In Shenanigans.
However, without discrediting our Olympic gold medal winner, Jean Saubert, let me point out that Skitours Club, of which I am president, is the originator of Sestriere's Orange Rolling Derby. At Skitours Club this derby was a nightly affair, winner take all—usually a pot of 53 marmaladed oranges and 5,000 lire. We even have pictures to prove it.
As skiers, we can never compete with Miss Saubert; as rollers, we challenge anyone.