I can appreciate Whitney Tower's staunch loyalty to Damascus (Now the Uncontested Champ, Aug. 28). After all, he was the first to tout the colt last fall, stuck with him through the Derby debacle, and saw himself vindicated by the Preakness, Belmont and all the rest.
But loyalty is one thing and picking Damascus as the uncontested champ over Dr. Fager is another. Certainly Damascus' record is impressive and 22 lengths is a lot of daylight, but who did he beat in that "stunning" Travers? Two conceded sprinters, who were bound to battle for the pace and quit after a mile, and Reason to Hail, a stretch runner who has been raced out of form in what must be one of the toughest 3-year-old stakes campaigns in history. That is not a field against which the class of champions is proven.
In comparing the two horses, how can Tower ignore Dr. Fager's amazing Withers on May 13, in which he met the then-unbeaten Tumiga closer to that sprinter's distance, ran a fantastic second quarter and won in the fastest time for a mile by a 3-year-old in New York racing history? How can Tower imply that Trainer Johnny Nerud waits for soft spots when, instead of sending his proven miler in another mile on Memorial Day, he sent Dr. Fager to the Jersey Derby against In Reality? And how can Tower discount the fact that the one time the two did meet, Damascus lost?
It is unfortunate that Dr. Fager has not had a chance to race more, if only to convince those who equate maximum exposure with maximum ability that he is the best 3-year-old in training. Hopefully Damascus and the rest will get another chance at him soon. I know where my money will be.
LINDA J. GREENHOUSE
To call Damascus the "uncontested champ" is completely unjustifiable. First of all, in the only head-to-head meeting between Damascus and Dr. Fager, Dr. Fager pulled away at the end with authority. After Damascus lost the race Willie Shoemaker tried to take the blame for the horse's loss by saying that he had started the horse too soon into its stretch drive. If he had started Damascus any later he wouldn't have come as close as he did. Second, they have both faced common opponents, such as In Reality, and they have both scored equally impressive victories. For example, in the Preakness and the American Derby, Damascus beat In Reality in the two races by a total of 9¼ lengths. In the Jersey Derby, although disqualified, Dr. Fager scored an easy 6½-length victory over In Reality. Third and most important, Damascus has lost three races this year: one to Exceedingly, a mediocre horse; one to Proud Clarion, who, although a good horse, is certainly not among the top horses; and one to Dr. Fager. Dr. Fager has been unbeatable this year, losing only through disqualification. I predict that if the two horses do eventually meet for a second time this year, Dr. Fager will trounce Damascus.
•Each horse has since won another race (page 91), but hopefully the question will be resolved on Sept. 30 when Damascus and Dr. Fager—and Buck-passer—are scheduled to meet in the Woodward Stakes at a mile and a quarter.—ED.
REMINDER FROM BROOKLYN
Who says a good baseball team has to be dull? William Leggett's delightful article on the zestful St. Louis Cardinals (Out in Front in Fun and Games, Sept. 4) proves that a winning team does not have to be composed of staid, spiritless, mechanical robots without personalities. For more than a decade baseball authorities have purposefully attempted to squelch any individuality on the part of their players. They have forgotten that baseball is a game as well as a business.
Hopefully the present Cardinals will reawaken the concept that baseball, even professional baseball, can be fun.
SIC TRANSIT GLORIA
Surprise, surprise. SI finally gave credit where credit was due (The AFL Has a Taste of Glory, Sept. 4). The Kansas City Chiefs are the best in the AFL and they will prove they are better than the best in the NFL in the next Super Bowl game. You can't say enough about those Super Chiefs.
What taste of glory, may I ask? Anyone who considers the Chicago Bears as one of the "top" teams in the NFL is out of his mind. The Kansas City Chiefs must be congratulated, but only for exposing the Bears for what they really are.
Rams 50, Chargers 7. Rams 44, Chiefs 24. NFL 13, AFL3. 'Nuff sed.
New York City
•For SI's outlook on the season, see page 48.—ED.
Melvin Durslag did a fine job on the article on UCLA Coach Tommy Prothro (Lock the Doors! Here Comes Tommy! Sept. 4), but even so he missed some interesting items on the background of this fascinating man. I speak from the vantage point of his onetime roommate at Duke.
Thompson Prothro was nicknamed "The Hulk." He looked as big, thick and dense as John Steinbeck's Lennie in Of Mice and Men. But he had one of the finest minds at the university—when applied to extracurricular activities. He was uncanny at bridge and poker, a master at student politics.
Your article says he was "a blocking back for Wallace Wade." Correction: on the field he was Wallace Wade, a heady single-wing quarterback who led his team to the 1942 Rose Bowl.
Incidentally, it is interesting to learn that Prothro now thinks "recruiting is overrated." That wasn't true when he was at Duke, as all fraternities that had to compete for prospective members against SAE knew so well. Prothro had a deserved reputation as the most effective rusher on campus. Once prospects got as far as Prothro's "hot box," few escaped unpledged. I know. That's how I first met him.
JOHN W. HARTMAN
New York City
I have some thoughts on those very interesting photos of the three UCLA assistant coaches. First, Tommy Prothro's explanation that "coaches often look unusual during a game" is, of course, very true. Also, it is not a denial of the charge. But then, as Mr. Durslag points out, Tommy is a tricky one.
It seems to me rather unlikely that the first two coaches, Tony Kopay and John Jardine, are relaying any illegal signals to the field. Both have been caught in quite common attitudes. Probably Kopay has a habit of trailing his hands about his head when he's feeling tension, while Jardine is quite obviously compensating for the lack of a tie clip. In any case, a bright, tricky coach would never develop a signaling system involving three separate relayers.
But the third coach, Lew Stueck, now there's a likely suspect. In the top two photographs his fingers are unnaturally spread, and in the bottom one he's holding his neck (and who ever heard of anyone holding his neck?). Stueck is also the roly-poliest member of the Bruin staff, which makes him a natural for the role of strategic visual target.
I might add that I'd rather our coach be tricky and bright than true blue and dull.
BY HOOK OR BY CROOK
Stanley Meltzoff obviously knows his stripers, his spear fishing and his craft as an illustrator (The Striped Bass in Canvas Chronicle, Sept. 4). If, however, he spears striped bass at Martha's Vineyard, as is implied in the article by Duncan Barnes, he would be well advised to take a refresher course in Massachusetts law. This reads, in part: "No person shall take, or attempt to take, with or by use of a net, seine or any other contrivance of any kind or description, except hook and line, any striped bass within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth." The penalty ranges from $500 to $1000 and/or 60 days in jail—and I would hate to see anyone of Mr. Meltzoff's ability in underwater art subject to such a fine.
Publisher, The Salt
•Don't worry. When Artist Meltzoff pursues stripers in Massachusetts, he leaves his spear at home in New Jersey.—ED.
HOME OF THE HORSE
We of the Thoroughbred Breeders of Kentucky, Inc. would like respectfully to take issue with the last sentence of your August 28 SCORECARD item, "Blinders On," wherein you refer to "the decline of the Kentucky horse industry." The Thoroughbred industry in Kentucky is at an alltime high, both in quantity and quality. In 1957, Kentucky produced 3,061 foals. In 1965, it produced 3,536. In 1957, 933 yearlings were sold at auction in Kentucky for a gross of $4,614,150, and in 1966, 1,292 yearlings brought a record $8,932,300.
In the last seven years (since figures on Kentucky-bred horses have been maintained), Kentucky has produced 54% of the stakes winners of all open stakes with a value of $10,000 or more. This percentage has remained constant even though greater production in other areas has reduced Kentucky's percentage of the total foals from 25.7 to 19.5.
We do not believe these figures indicate a decline.
M. FAULCONER GLASS