Having heard much of Pelé the soccer player and nothing of Pelé the man, I was extremely pleased to "meet" Pelé through the brilliant writing of Pete Axthelm (The Most Famous Athlete in the World, Oct. 24). It's about time someone publicized in America the most popular sport in the world and its most sensational player.
Let's hope this exposition of soccer will inspire many Americans to learn to play the sport and many more to learn to understand and respect the most exciting of all team games.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento does not know what his nickname, Pelé, means? I shall help him. In Hebrew it means "a wonder; a miracle."
State College, Pa.
IN THE CLOUDS
Thank you for a fresh look at the incomparable Elgin Baylor (A Tiger Who Can Beat Anything, Oct. 24). I think everyone must agree that he is one of the most courageous athletes in the history of American sport. I have been a fan for a long time but, unfortunately, the closest I've ever been to him has been peering down from above the clouds in the second balcony of the Boston Garden. I hasten to add that he looks great from that angle, too!
PETER A. BERKOWSKY
The debate over who is the greatest all-round player has long been clouded by the tendency in some observers to ignore the degrees of skill among the more outstanding players.
Oscar Robertson is a case in point. Admittedly, he is a superb scorer and play-maker who rebounds well against other guards. However, Elgin Baylor scores, sets up plays and rebounds against anyone—6-foot 10-inch forwards included. He has often been among the top five in all three categories; sometimes even in the same season.
To praise Baylor at Robertson's expense is useless and unrealistic. Both are outstanding. However, I feel a distinction should be made between one who excels in all phases of the game and those who might be given a lesser rating in some one category. I commend your implied distinction.
JOSEPH A. OLESS
Through the years we Los Angeles sports fans have had our share of truly great performers—Patton, Waterfield, Hirsch, Van Brocklin, Gonzalez, Wills, Koufax, West and so on. There has never been a more thrilling sight for me than that of Elgin Baylor working one on one.
South San Gabriel, Calif.
I found the predictions on the NBA season in your pro basketball issue quite interesting. Your ideas about the Western Division are certainly valid: Los Angeles should finish ahead of St. Louis. However, judging by their early games, the "little" lads from Chicago should come out ahead of both the Lakers and the Hawks.
I have no doubt that the Chicago Bulls will make the playoffs. You writers are all alike—afraid to go out on the limb for a new team.
I applaud your selection of the Celtics to repeat as world champs.
The secret of the Boston Celtics is in the picture on page 42 of the October 24 issue for all the world to see. Five Celtics inside all the Lakers but Baylor, ready for a possible rebound and then the fast break.
New York City
Thanks to John Underwood for exposing the Big Ten as a myth and a fraud (State Wins the Numbers Game, Oct. 17). While astute football fans have realized this, sports-writers haven't. Please, fellas, cover the SEC and the SWC, but let the Big Ten repose.
In John Underwood's article about the Big Ten he attempts to make the point that, because of the lack of talent in the Midwest, Big Ten coaches have been forced to recruit elsewhere, notably in the South. He cites Duffy Daugherty, whose Michigan State team has been the only truly successful one in the Big Ten, as his prime example. We do not deny the fact that the South does produce many fine football players, but we contend that the breeding ground of stars has not been confined to any one geographical area. After all, one of the finest southern players in years, Joe Namath, is a Pennsylvania product.
We agree that Alabama and Nebraska have fine teams and on any given Saturday might beat the Big Ten's best. However, the SEC's small, fast linemen and backs might find it rather difficult to cope with the large, slow teams from Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan on successive Saturdays without a Chattanooga or Memphis State thrown in to bolster their confidence.
JOHN JOSEPH DUNN III
STEPHEN COLE WERNER
Notre Dame, Ind.
Congratulations are certainly in order to John Underwood for a fine article. At last the facts are brought to light in black and white—and by an impartial magazine. However, we SEC fans have been preaching this for years.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED will doubtlessly receive a flood of letters from the land of stone-age football (i.e., three yards and a cloud of dust). But, as the saying goes, never tell a man he is wrong, because the only way to win an argument is to avoid it.
I read with interest that one of your weekly "Faces in the Crowd" (Oct. 17), a ballplayer named Jerry Gramly was "reinstated as an amateur after two years of minor-league baseball." If amateurism is something that can be turned on and off like a water faucet, why can't whoever has jurisdiction over this matter turn octogenarians back into middle-aged men? Or reinstate wayward girls as virgins?
Where was this omnipotent reinstater lurking when Jim Thorpe had to return the Olympic trophies he won in Stockholm in 1912 because he was a "professional"? According to Grantland Rice's book, The Tumult and the Shouting, page 230, all Thorpe did was play "a little summer baseball," on a semipro (not even a minor-league) team while he was at Carlisle "for eating money." For the millions of sports fans who admire Thorpe, why can't whatever board or committee it was that "reinstated" a minor-league player as an "amateur" do the same thing posthumously for Jim? It would be good to place a plaque of this reinstatement on some athletic field made famous by the Carlisle Indian under words spoken to Thorpe by King Gustaf V of Sweden (one thing the AAU has never been able to get back from him): "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world."
JOSEPH W. WELLS
•Amateurism means different things to different people. Canadian hockey players can shift their playing status from amateur to professional and back again with relative ease. Under the rules of the USGA, an amateur golfer becomes a pro if he accepts even a dime in "expense money," except in rare special circumstances. The American Amateur Baseball Congress decided that six months away from pro ball was sufficient to purge Jerry Gramly of his past and make him an amateur once more. Unfortunately, the AABC has no authority over Olympic athletes, dead or alive.—ED.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Kram's look at Baltimore (A Wink at a Homely Girl, Oct. 10), but I feel obligated to suggest that he visit Milwaukee before passing judgment on Baltimore as the deadest big town in the country.
He mentions that big-time baseball, basketball, college football and hockey are not supported well in Baltimore. Let it be known that, despite a population of over one million (including suburbs), Milwaukee doesn't even have any of these sports.
The Braves were popular as long as they won, but they have since departed. The NBA Hawks fled to greener pastures in St. Louis. The minor-league hockey Falcons folded, as did Marquette University's football program. The fact is that anyone seeking big league entertainment must travel to Chicago (90 miles south) or do without.
The Chamber of Commerce is constantly seeking a way to lure tourists into the city but is denied the only solution—horse racing. The State of Wisconsin is so against all kinds of gambling that it won't even allow bingo at church picnics. An exciting night for a Milwaukeean is to dance a polka and drink beer at the nearest tavern.
If Mr. Kram spent two weeks in Milwaukee, he would soon consider himself lucky to have been brought up in Baltimore, where at least something is happening.
R.P. GRIFFIN JR.