Indeed, it was with great pleasure that I read the article, The Mafia at Saratoga (Nov. 11), by Sam Toperoff. It recalled for me many memories of that remarkable Saturday afternoon at Saratoga when my lovely filly Natashka won the Alabama Stakes.
While I was certainly not the Getty the Sophie in the article thought I was, nevertheless on that afternoon it was delightful that my family relationship with the Getty that Sophie thought I was permitted me to own such a beautiful stakes winner.
Natashka was topweighted, with Destro and Lady Pitt, at 126 on the 1967 Free Handicap. She started nine times in 1966 and won the Alabama Stakes, Monmouth Oaks, Miss Woodford Stakes and Las Flores Handicap; she was second in the Post-Deb Stakes and unplaced in the Delaware Oaks. She bowed a tendon while finishing second in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park in July 1967, and was retired with winnings of $151,673. She is now at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky and is in foal to Ribot, the world's greatest living classic sire.
Thank you for the pleasure and the wonderful sports coverage that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has given me over the years.
GEORGE F. GETTY II
Getty Oil Company
It was gratifying to see Roger Bannister's fine article A Debt Was Paid Off In Tears in the Nov. 11 issue of SI. I enjoyed Bannister's pre-1,500-meter-run analysis via television's Olympic coverage, and, as a physiologist and ex-athlete, I am impressed with his critique.
More important, however, are the implications in some of Bannister's statements, among them: "For reasons of both historical accuracy and future safety, the actual record must be preserved—and correctly interpreted"; "dissenting voices were suppressed by a misplaced sense of chivalry."
The consideration of the athlete, who has worked for years in order to demonstrate his abilities in front of the whole world, should be of prime importance to the IOC; everything else should be secondary. Many thanks to SI for allowing this message to come through.
There is little doubt that altitude did hurt Ron Clarke and others. But there are many additional stresses on the Olympic competitors no matter where the Games are held.
I am sure that Dr. Bannister is also aware that the scheduling of the Games in Mexico produced secondary gains. Within the past four years there have been many important scientific investigations into the effect of altitude on human performance. Studies conducted by such men as Dr. Pugh from Dr. Bannister's country, Faulkner of the University of Michigan, Dr. Balke of Wisconsin, Buskirk of Penn State and by many others throughout the world have advanced our understanding of exercise and adaptation to altitude. Last year's meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine was one of the most stimulating scientific gatherings one could attend.
Dr. Bannister also implies that altitude made it possible for "novices" to win and states so in evaluating Biwott's performance in the steeplechase. Maybe he did look "like a farmer jumping the gate," but the man won and the time was respectable.
Finally, it seems somewhat provincial that Dr. Bannister resents a winner "because of the chance of his birthplace." I would like to point out that for most of the history of the Olympics since 1896 the winner's stand has been dominated by people from those areas of the world which could afford to develop competitive athletics. A talented runner who must devote all his waking hours to supplying basic human needs does not make it to the finish line first. This is evident in the observation that until recently Olympic champions have been white members of the Western world. It's most exciting to see more and more people from other parts of the world entering the international competitive arena.
Dry your tears, Dr. Bannister. The challenges ahead and the prospects for the future are exciting, and your spilled cup of tea is behind you.
ALBERT B. CRAIG JR., M.D.
I certainly share Dr. Roger Bannister's expert indignation at the stupid cruelty suffered by unacclimatized distance runners in the Mexico Olympics. As a distance runner of long ago, although of humble sorts, who is still jogging at 77, I was appalled at the decision of the IOC. I'm a chemist, not a physician, but I predicted what happened and, indeed, feared worse, as any educated man and distance runner could have.
The IOC's decision in the face of Dr. Bannister's expert opinion was both stupid and cowardly.
GEORGE V. CAESAR
Harbor Beach, Mich.
PLAYERS ARE PEOPLE
The article by Dan Jenkins on Penn State's football team is a brilliant description of a team that takes the game for what it is: a sport (The Idea Is to Have Some Fun—And Who Needs to Be No. 1, Nov. 11). It's nice to see a team undefeated and ranked near the top that does not make football its way of life 24 hours a day. Penn State's players are people first, football players second, and they have a human coach with some intelligence about things other than formations and plays.
If Georgia can't be the national champion, then I certainly hope Penn State has the honor. It deserves it.
I was pleased to see you cover the Army-Penn State football game in this week's issue, but I sincerely feel you did not do justice to an outstanding Army team. You gave the impression that Penn State could have scored at will. When looking at the statistics it almost seems the other way around. In total offense Army had it over State by almost a hundred yards, 381-287. And Army's scores came on sustained drives of 83, 67, 67 and 60 yards. State had two good scoring drives plus our blunders. Admittedly, we made several atrocious and costly errors, but it should be pointed out that many teams would have virtually given up after the bad breaks we incurred. But no one could say that about Coach Cahill's fighting Cadets.
You also talked of the Penn State ballplayers as if they were all great scholars and you seemed very impressed that Onkotz got up early on the day of a game just to take a physics test. I wonder if SI has any idea what time members of the Army team get up on Saturdays. They get up at 6:10 like everyone else here at the academy, and that's part of the reason why we love our team—they go through exactly what everyone else does.
RANDALL L. FEWEL
West Point, N.Y.
The obvious selection for Sportsman of the Year is Penn State Coach Joe Paterno.
R. STEVENS, D.D.S.
Jim Hines for Sportsman of the Year.
Peggy Gale Fleming, in my opinion, gave the best performance of 1968. She was America's only real hope for a gold medal in the Winter Olympics, and she turned in the performance expected of a great athlete.
I think Mickey Mantle ought to be picked as Sportsman of the Year.
I nominate Deacon Jones of the Los Angeles Rams as SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S Sportsman of the Year 1968. Last year he finished second in the voting for the NFL's Most Valuable Player. This year he should easily be presented the award along with Sportsman of the Year for 1968. Jones, a true football giant, sparks the greatest defensive unit ever assembled in football.
Notre Dame, Ind.
I nominate Joe Namath. He has been a great quarterback playing on terrible knees. In spite of pain he passed last year for more than 4,000 yards.
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost the O. J. Simpson Super Bowl when they kicked a 15-yard field goal in the closing seconds to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 6-3 (SCORECARD, Nov. 4). A wire-service report of the game stated that the Eagles "mysteriously" gambled on a fourth-down play inside their own 10-yard line. When the Eagles failed to get the needed yardage the poor Steelers had no alternative but to kick the winning field goal. Steeler Kicker Booth Lusteg has been sold by three teams in the past two years, presumably for his ineffectual field-goal attempts. Now I wonder if he'll get canned for making this one.
And if you think this game was mysterious, wait until March, when half of the National Basketball Association will go into the tank for a shot at the Big A.
GREGORY Z. THOMAJAN
You condemn Pittsburgh football fans. Take a look at Steeler history. Not one championship, and they gave away John Unitas. Buddy Parker traded Buddy Dial to Dallas for nothing. Lou Michaels was traded to Baltimore (look at him now). Mike Clark was lost to Dallas this year. The Steelers have had three unsuccessful coaches in three or four years and a list of "can't miss" quarterbacks (Bill Nelsen, Kent Nix, Dick Shiner, Ed Brown, etc.). This year they have lost to New Orleans, and they beat the Eagles 6-3 on a last-minute field goal by a kicker who has been known to miss kicks from beyond the 25.
Look at some of the other Pittsburgh teams and you see why we don't care. The Pirates? Sixth place. The Panthers? Another one of our fine football teams. The Penguins? Picked for last place. The basketball team (Pipers) won the championship and is now in Minnesota, where another team failed.
Look into the Pittsburgh sports scene a little closer, and then you will see why things are the way they are.
BIG TIME AND SMALL TIME
I do not think it is fair that O. J. Simpson of Southern Cal and Eugene (Mercury) Morris of West Texas State are being compared in the same statistical category for most yards rushed. Surely, if Simpson played against the same competition that Morris does, he would have just as many yards, if not more. I think Simpson should be proclaimed the year's best, rusher in big-time football and Morris the best in small-time college football.
The Mercury Man is in a class by himself.
After reading your article in SCORECARD "A Good-Sized Back" (Nov. 4) I feel compelled to tell you of our football team's exploits against 415-pound Carlton (Tiny Tim) Vaughn and company.
We, the Northside Bobcats of Gretna, Va., played Central High School on Nov. 1 for homecoming. Vaughn did not play the whole left side of the defensive line by himself, nor were we afraid to run to his side. Raleigh James—our offensive tackle, who is a sophomore—played head to head against Vaughn all afternoon, allowing him a grand total of two tackles. We went on to win the game by a score of 26-13, and all I can say is that by the end of the game Tiny Tim's "earthquake trot" had turned into the stunned stagger.
Sandy Level, Va.