VICTORY AT PEBBLE
Congratulations on a well-written article about a man who conquered the uncontrollable elements of wind, sand and ocean and the controllable elements of pressure from fellow golf giants Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer to win the most challenging and delightful-to-watch U.S. Open of the decade (The Glorious Quest, June 26).
As a loyal fan of Jack Nicklaus, I see him as a man who is potentially the greatest golfer ever to swing a club. I also see him as a man of well-earned wealth who is very unpretentious, a man who has survived the present corrosion of many of our values and who, at least from all outward appearances, is a happy man concerned and interested in his family. If anyone deserves to win the "quadruple crown" it is Jack Nicklaus.
THE REV. ROBERT MELANCON
I was at the tournament and was most impressed by Nicklaus' intelligent play. Jack researched the tough Pebble Beach course well. He knew all the distances that he needed to hit and also what parts of the green to hit to. Though nearly all his shots impressed me, the one that I thought best was his second shot on the 13th. After scrambling for a bogey on the 12th, he hooked his tee shot on the 13th and ended up in the middle of a dirt road approximately 150 yards from the green (as your article said, he is mortal). He studied the shot as only he can, pulled out an iron and sent the ball cleanly off the road onto the green and into magnificent position. Nicklaus is the greatest.
Dan Jenkins' fine story on the Open makes two points with which I must take exception:
1) that the putt on 12 was the key stroke in Nicklaus' victory. No mention is made of the spectacular short-iron approach hit off the road on 13—or the great recovery from the rough on 14 after a poorly placed drive. These shots, in that gale, had to demand far more skill than an eight-foot putt.
2) that in the future the committee should erect bleachers for the spectators. No way! We'll walk, crane and stretch. Leave Pebble Beach as it is—the most beautiful natural setting for the game on this continent. No one who attended the tournament could complain truly about the way he or she was treated. The organization was excellent. And anyone who really wanted to see the action could. This fine course, in championship form, should be kept a natural wonder and not junked up for the sake of comfort. Watching Pebble Beach win was a great experience.
THOMAS K. McSHANE
La Jolla, Calif.
It seems a shame that Dan Jenkins cannot resist the urge to degrade those who have the audacity to compete against Nicklaus, Palmer or Trevino, or who otherwise offend him in speech, dress or manner. His unnecessary attacks have, time and again, ruined for me articles by Jenkins that I enjoyed in other respects. If Jenkins feels he is pleasing the golf follower by reflecting the "nothing sacred" attitude that seems to be gaining popularity, more's the pity.
J. K. CAGNEY
West Hartford, Conn.
I congratulate Dan Jenkins for his fine job of writing. His superb article is as much an achievement as was Jack Nicklaus' victory. I pay tribute to both of them.
ALBERT V. GIACOMETTI
Old Forge, Pa.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ron Fimrite's article (Two Catchers Cut From Royal Cloth, June 26) dealing with Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds and Manny Sanguillen of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Everywhere I go, I hear about Johnny Bench. But as a Pirate fan located in Reds country, I have felt that Sanguillen has been slighted in the publicity department in the past. I am proud to see that SI has compared Sanguillen favorably with Bench. Both are truly excellent catchers, and if they stay healthy in the years to come, each should find his way into the Hall of Fame.
LARRY J. BRADFIELD
Congratulations to Ron Fimrite. His article is a salute to the leaders of major league baseball. Maybe more people will now realize the responsibility a catcher has while in a ball game. Because I am a Cincinnati fan, I think of Bench as the best. But tribute must also be paid to those other catchers who are the sparkplugs of their teams.
To prove that he is also a catcher who can hit, Earl Williams of the Braves should deliver a punch in the nose to Ron Fimrite, who failed to mention that Williams won the 1971 National League Rookie of the Year award with 33 home runs and 87 RBIs. No other catcher matched that kind of power production in '71.
Though a bit behind that pace this year, Williams, always a slow starter, is a good bet to resume his slugging shortly.
You mentioned some catchers who are in the "first rank" below Sanguillen and Bench. However, you neglected to mention the one catcher who has the potential to be right behind your catchers cut from royal cloth. Milt May is forgotten by many because he plays behind the greatest of all, Manny Sanguillen. May would be a regular on any other team in the major leagues, including the teams that have the catchers you labeled as first rank.
The article concerning wrestler Dan Gable (A Kid Who Doesn't Kid Around, June 19) was the best I have read in SI thus far. It was a fine tribute to a great athlete and to a largely unrecognized and underestimated sport. Herman Weiskopf showed wrestling for what it is, a sport of strength, speed, agility and stamina, mental as well as physical.
Your article served as a great inspiration to me. I am currently wrestling on a senior high level, and I follow the routine Gable used for collegiate wrestling. I hope you will continue your articles on wrestling.
Sports devotees the world over are ecstatic, inspired and reassured of man's capacity for extension to incredible limits by your splendid article about the phenomenal Dan Gable.
Those with a global perspective of athletics, a view which SI seems to espouse, are delighted not only with our nation's increasing awareness of the vital role and faultless language of international sports but with your recognition of those American Olympians who are frequently heroes abroad but unheralded nationally at home.
Without a dime of remuneration, the Dan Gables of the U.S. sacrifice enormously for the opportunity to enter the intensely demanding crucible of international sports competition, one of mankind's best hopes for generations of peace.
With SI's exaltation of Dan Gable, the youth of the U.S., as well as its adults, can now admire and emulate a genuine, all-American superstar—a brilliant athlete and a man of honor.
Pagoda Industries Inc.
Sinking Spring, Pa.
An athlete of Dan Gable's stature certainly deserves a share of recognition. Thank you for the delightful, bright and breezy feature. Let's have more stories on the smaller sports, where the athletes compete for love and only a small share of glory.
I think Bil Gilbert did a public service by revealing part of the Smokey Bear problem (Where There's Smokey, There's Fire, June 12). For many years the professional forester-directed U.S. Forest Service has managed our national forests behind the image of Smokey Bear.
What is little known is that the Forest Service can well remain smug about Smokey—protected as it is by Public Law 359, popularly referred to as the Smokey Bear Act. This law provides more protection for Smokey Bear's name, and thus Forest Service policy, than the Constitution provides for the name of an American citizen. This should be indicative of how far overboard Congress has gone in turning over discretionary powers to the U.S. Forest Service.
Your article on Smokey was interesting, but not without error or omissions. While you credit "Southern foresters and timber-company technicians" with beginning the study of what is now known as fire ecology, major credit should go to H. H. Chapman, a Minnesota-bred Yankee and longtime professor of forest management at Yale. He was the first to recommend using fire on two of the principal Southern pine types. Later research, especially by the U.S. Forest Service, refined and modified his methods and—with the experience gained using tire on national forests—provided guides on how to burn. Today some two million acres of forest land in the South, largely in industrial holdings and national forests, are prescribe-burned each year. Back in 1964 the Forest Service prescribe-burned only 317,000 acres in national forests of the South. Nearly all of the burning was done on acreage under stands, not as a way of disposing of slash after logging as your author implied. Admittedly, slash fires apparently predominate in national forests of the West.
In some respects, we could have used your article about 20 to 40 years ago when the pros and cons of prescribed or controlled burning were being fiercely debated in forestry circles. Bill Beaufait's research seems relatively recent, as does the Park Service's interest, when one considers that a U.S. Department of Agriculture bulletin co-authored in 1903 by Henry S. Graves, second chief of the Forest Service and longtime dean of the Yale School of Forestry, stated that in southern New England "...pine seeds do not germinate on a dry matting of needles and leaves. Under these circumstances reproduction is assisted by burning off the surface litter."
In my own experience the first prescribed-burning study, testing different frequencies of fire in southern New Jersey, was started in 1936 by the state and U.S. Forest Service. Prescribed-burning as a tool of forest management received approval for use on state and private lands in that section in 1947.
Ashley Schiff, a political scientist, analyzed the fight within the U.S. Forest Service over using fire as a tool in his book Fire and Water: Scientific Heresy in the Forest Service. This book, dealing largely with the 1920s and '30s, was published in 1962—10 years ago.
SILAS LITTLE, Ph.D.
Bil Gilbert's article on Smokey Bear, to resort to the obvious cliché, misses the forest for the trees. His reportorial slant, while thoroughly researched smacks of opportunism. His conclusion, while nicely presented, comes from a wrong hypothesis.
Smokey is a symbol of forest fire prevention. He has nothing to do with controlled burning; the latter is a scientifically based procedure, the former a conservation-minded viewpoint. And to confuse the two under a partisan attack on Smokey is to invite trouble.
Remove Smokey or weaken his message by messianic articles under the flag of ecology and you reduce the fear of the danger of fire and increase the odds of more fires like the 1970 inferno that ravaged thousands of acres here in Southern California and burned clear to the water in Malibu.
Controlled burning is not a public issue: Smokey is. Let the foresters handle their management and burning policies on the inside. And let Smokey remind us all about handling fires on the outside. That's the better course.
Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Being from the "rebellious" South I would like to make a suggestion that seems to have completely eluded the grasp of Bil Gilbert. While his article seems to make a valid point in favor of "fire ecology" (Is this the right use of the word, Bil?), he forgets that Smokey tries to prevent careless, uncontrolled fire. I believe that we should let nature or forest experts start the forest fires and encourage everyone else to put out their campfires. Smokey should continue in the latter capacity.
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