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Original Issue


I have just finished reading the article Funny Ball, Funny Bounces (July 20) and can't help making some remarks about it. First of all, I think that those concerned (SI included) should be barking up another tree. Time and time again, I have heard it said that baseball is a game of inches, as in, "If it were not for an inch, our man would have gotten a double down the foul line and won the game," etc. Last year they complained about the mound being too high, bad lighting and so forth. Now they claim the lively ball is taking over. When will all this nonsense cease and the people in baseball sit back and examine the most important problem?

Nothing at all has been said about the vast differences in ball parks. How can there be a fair determination of pennant winners when one of the contenders plays in a park with shorter fences? How many of Roger Maris' 61 homers were down the 296-foot right-field line? Would Roberto Clemente have won all those batting titles if the rock-hard Forbes Field infield had been normal? Would Sandy Koufax have won as many games for the Dodgers if they had had a hitter's park like Wrigley Field?

I think these are the questions that baseball officials should be thinking about. They should have standardized ball parks. They should have had them long ago.

Think for a moment, also, what would develop from such a condition in other sports. Examples: the Atlanta Hawks lower their basket to nine feet because they want a shorter, faster team; the Chicago Black Hawks widen the mouths of their goals in order to get more Hull shots in (Esposito can cover the additional space); the Buffalo Bills widen their field to utilize O.J.'s corner-cutting ability. These all may sound absurd, but that's exactly the way it is in baseball.

It seems to me that baseball is blowing smoke when it says it is a game of inches and forgets about 75 feet!

Apparently a number of individuals and a few testing firms have gone to a great deal of trouble—making comparison tests, freezing, frying, etc.—to answer a question that most readers, I'm sure, are familiar with. "Is the baseball livelier or not?" As of today there are various opinions yet no definite ways of finding a true answer. Therefore why not forget it and play ball?

In his article about sport's coexistence with the city of Boston (The Hub Men, July 13), Frank Deford showed much more knowledge and reason than anyone who has previously written on the subject. However, no one should get the impression that the Boston professional sports community can and will survive without a modern—or at least adequate—facility. When the ancient walls of Fenway literally start to crack, no one, including Tom Yawkey, is going to want to pick up the repair tab. Although the statement was quickly forgotten, Yawkey said three years ago that unless he got a new stadium he would take the Red Sox out of Boston. Losing money was the reason, of course. But that was in 1967, and then the Red Sox suddenly started winning ball games, which meant that Yawkey was winning at the gate. But when the Sox cease to play over .500 ball and return to their pre-1967 accomplishments, Uncle Tom's excessive royalties will also cease, and he will once again get on the stadium bandwagon. Those who found it very easy to say no to the weak Patriots (who just might have found a home) will find it much harder to say no to Yawkey and the Red Sox, who, as Deford very observantly pointed out, carry more weight in Boston than any other sports team, and a few politicians as well.
Methuen, Mass.

Frank Deford's article was interesting and amusing, but I found his conclusions both specious and facile. If the city of Boston is a step ahead in its attitude toward building a stadium, then God help the world of professional sports. Television cannot and will never be a substitute for actually being present at a game. Any true fan of any sport has to go into cardiac arrest at Deford's reasoning.

We in Buffalo have been fighting tooth and nail for our dome. If it is not built we will sink right back into the bush league—and we get Channel 2 real clear.

Having just read the first installment of Joe Kapp's story (A Man of Machismo, July 20 et seq.), I am disappointed to see that he omitted his most spectacular play. As usual with Joe, it was a broken play upon which he capitalized. Against Oregon in 1958, with his Cal team on its own eight-yard line, Joe missed the hand-off and—forced to eat the ball—ducked through a hole off guard and was 40 yards downfield before he was spotted. Given a 40-yard lead, even Joe couldn't miss that 92-yard TD!
Colorado Springs, Colo.

I'M A MAN! I'M A MAN! I'M A MAN! Shout it often enough, have enough fights, rabble-rouse with the boys, talk dirty about the girls and before long the world will believe it. But how about Joe Kapp? Will he believe it? Self-doubt is, indeed, an uncomfortable mental state; particularly if the national press is to be the therapeutic medium. As someone once said, methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.
New York City

Regarding Joe Kapp's first article, I can testify as to just how tough he is. I was getting my band started in Pacoima about the same time he was growing up, and to say you saw a guy lying in his own blood once in a while is a definite understatement. I don't know Joe, but I know that anybody who grew up in that neighborhood is now very tough or very dead or very lucky.
Northridge, Calif.

Congratulations to you and Author Hugh Whall for the most discerning and timely article on Yacht Designer Britton Chance whose redesigned Intrepid has the entire world of competitive sailing agog (Bright New Chance at the Cup, July 13).

It may interest you to know that in the last three races of the Texas Ocean Racing Circuit, Designer Chance's first stock ocean racer, PT-30 No. I, had the cream of western Gulf skippers wide-eyed as she outsailed, boat for boat, Cal 40s and other equally large and hot competitors, and left other 30-footers and boats of her own rating hours behind. All indications are that Chance's daring to be decidedly different has created a real breakthrough in ocean-racing circles, too.
La Porte, Texas

In his article (Zut! We Nearly Got Guillotined, July 20) Pat Putnam dissected the Amateur Athletic Union with the finesse of a child practicing surgery. His diagnosis was that we suffered from "tunnel vision." Let me suggest that if anyone suffers from myopia it is Mr. Putnam, for he has been, consciously or not, blind to the facts.

Athletes were told that they would travel as a team simply because it is unfair to drop a man from an event at the whim of another athlete. We are not about to go without dessert, to use Mr. Putnam's metaphor; neither are we about to hand an athlete a piece of the cake and then snatch it back before he takes a bite. If he has made the sacrifice (and in most cases this European trip represents, at the very least, the loss of earnings from a summer job), then an athlete has the right to expect that he will be allowed to compete. Mr. Putnam may attack this as "tunnel vision," but it seems to us the honorable relationship between the athletes and the AAU.

The AAU is also chastised for giving its athletes only board, room and $2 a day. If Mr. Putnam had done a modicum of research on this point, he would have discovered that this is regulated by the IAAF, the international body controlling track and field, and that, until such time as that body modifies its rules to include a more realistic per diem allowance, the AAU is compelled to obey its laws.

In the future we hope that Mr. Putnam will check with us before he begins his next assault upon the AAU.
Amateur Athletic Union of the U.S.
New York City

Like a good many other people, I used to give the benefit of the doubt to the AAU in its Orwellian, perpetual state of war with the NCAA and the latter's alter ego, USTFF. After reading Pat Putnam's absorbing story of the Paris meet, I now feel about them roughly the way the Weathermen feel about the Democratic and Republican parties.
Barrington Hills, Ill.

Jack Nicklaus has clearly established himself on a par with golf's alltime greats—Jones, Hagen, Sarazen, Nelson, Snead and Hogan (Virtue in the Valley of Sin, July 20). Here's hoping the sportswriters and commentators will begin to acknowledge this, at least to the extent of differentiating between pure golfing ability and crowd-pleasing showmanship. It would help to educate the large percentage of fans who still fail to recognize and appreciate the former.
San Francisco

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