It was with great disappointment that I read the token recognition of what has to be one of the most tragic occurrences of modern baseball. Your coverage of the death of Roberto Clemente (SCORECARD, Jan. 15) does very little to convey the essence and personality of one who without a doubt must be classified among the top five players of the past 20 years.
Those of us who follow baseball and sports in general are continually disheartened by the misguided priorities of many of those who either direct or participate in sports today. If there ever was an exception to what is becoming an unfortunate rule, it was Clemente. The records and awards that he compiled during his career will serve as testimony to his excellence and exceptional skill as a baseball player. However, it would not be doing him justice to allow your description of him to be the sole testimony registered in tribute to his excellence as a human being.
Certainly he was a proud man, and he had every right to be. The level of stardom he achieved, given his very humble beginnings, serves as an inspiration to young aspiring ballplayers in Puerto Rico and the countries of Latin America. But you make no mention of his works as a humanitarian, despite the fact that the circumstances surrounding his death provided all the evidence that you would need to acknowledge how sincere his desire was to help his fellow man.
The real tragedy in the death of Roberto Clemente was in the loss not of a man who had accomplished so much, but of a man who had so much yet to do. His dream for the youth of Puerto Rico, ciudad de deportes para ni√±os, a sports city for the underprivileged youth of the island, was still in its infancy. Hopefully, the cornerstone that he laid will be expanded upon as a fitting memorial to one of his lifelong ideals.
These are only some of the things that reflect the true personality and nature of the ballplayer named Roberto Clemente. These, along with his four batting titles, 10 Golden Glove awards, Most Valuable Player awards for both a season and a World Series, a .317 lifetime batting average and a competitive drive that made him a source of inspiration to all who played with him, are the factors that made him the outstanding man he was.
It is indeed unfortunate that even after his death you have not deemed it suitable to give Roberto Clemente the recognition that he deserved but never truly received during his years as a professional athlete.
LOUIS A. MARTIN-VEGA
I loved Roberto Clemente and I am still sick with the knowledge of his death. My sickness worsened after I glanced through your Jan. 15 issue. I truly believed that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED would pay just tribute to one of the greatest athletes and men in sports on the occasion of his untimely and tragic death. You did not. Maybe enough has already been said, but not by you. As tall as Roberto stood in sports, I believe it was your obligation as the king of sports magazines to honor him in a way that would make your readers fully aware of our genuine loss of a superstar. Your magazine has always been a winner, but this time you lost.
FRANK J. BOCH III
North Irwin, Pa.
It was with great relief that I read Tex Maule's preview of Super Bowl VII (It's the Top-of-the-Hill Gang, Jan. 15). I had nearly begun to believe all that "Washington by three points" talk when along came Tex and his Washington by 10 and possibly by 21 prediction and I knew Miami was a shooin. Maule is still fighting the old AFL-NFL war, and he refuses to accept any old AFL teams on a par with his sacred NFL.
I am sure that Tex, had he been around, would have picked Goliath in three rounds, Napoleon in one at Waterloo, Custer because of his determination at the Little Big Horn, and Dewey in a landslide in '48.
Love and kisses and all that jazz to Tex, who consistently restores one's faith in the fallibility of man.
LEO T. KENNEDY
I would like to sincerely thank SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and its eminent pro football expert, Tex Maule, for solving a dilemma for me. Going into Super Bowl VII I wasn't quite sure which team to cheer for. I had a soft spot in my heart for the AFC Dolphins (after all, I grew up along with the old AFL), but I also liked the fascinating Washington Over-the-Hill Gang.
Then it happened. Mr. Maule made his much-awaited annual prediction: "Washington should win Super Bowl VII by at least 10 points and perhaps by as many as 21." There it was again—that lingering NFL superiority syndrome.
Immediately I became a bloodthirsty AFL fan. I mean, hadn't the man heard? Or did he just choose to forget about the '68 Jets and '69 Chiefs and what they did to the cream of the NFL crop? Hadn't the AFC really won the '72 season series from the NFC? Was Curt Gowdy lying to me?
Thank you, Mr. Maule. You made my Super Sunday complete by once again postulating a theory that belongs in a museum with all of the other relics.
Tex Maule should eat not only his words but the whole Jan. 15 issue! Then he should be assigned to cover penguin hunting in the Antarctic.
I wish I were Tex Maule's bookie.
If only racetrack operators and state politicians would pay heed to the article A Look at the Old Gray Mare (Jan. 15) by Frank E. Kilroe, racing would have a good chance of being rejuvenated to its former pinnacle in sports.
Mr. Kilroe's piece contains more wisdom concerning the ills of racing and possible cures than anything I have read in 30 years' association with the sport.
The thoroughbred racing organizations should send copies of this article to every state legislator and every state racing commissioner in the U.S.
RICHARD STONE REEVES
The article Up, Up and Awry (Jan. 15) by Jeannette Bruce reminded me of a quotation from Ralph Upson, a respected balloonist of about half a century ago. Upson wrote: "A free balloon is so safe that it is almost foolproof. It would require more than an ordinary fool to hurt himself in one, without purposely taking chances."
None of the balloon accidents that I have studied contradict this statement, and the accident so lightly described in your article seems no exception. I comment on the basis of some experience as a balloon pilot instructor, a Federal Aviation Administration designated balloon pilot examiner, a member of the board of directors of the Balloon Federation of America, the recent editor of Ballooning, to which Miss Bruce so often refers, and as the U.S. national hot-air balloon champion pilot.
Fortunately, most balloonists are both sensible and responsible, but sadly we read in your magazine of some exceptions.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
I would like to thank Jeannette Bruce for her excellent article. The spirit of her story was marvelous, and she tells it like it is, so to speak, explaining what ballooning is all about.
Granted ballooning has its serenity, but she has exploded the myth that ballooning is all serenity, and only an inexperienced balloonist could disagree.
Undoubtedly you will receive letters from those self-righteous and self-appointed experts on ballooning who are more interested in their egos than in the sport. They will bombard you with meaningless credentials so as to denigrate Miss Bruce's efforts.
My own opinion is that this is not only the most entertaining story so far on ballooning but also the most informative.
ROBERT L. WALIGUNDA
Balloon Pilots Racing Association
I read with personal interest of Jeannette Bruce's balloon experiences. The day I read the article I had just completed my fifth hour of flight training in a Piccard AX-6, the bitter rival of the craft she took her lessons in, the Raven. I dispute what she has been told about the wicker basket, as I assure you I would now be in the hospital if it were not for the forgiveness of the Piccard basket bouncing around in these frozen farm fields. Believe me, they do not crumble. We hit a farm implement (a disc harrow) the other day at about 15 mph on a touch and go and I have only a few bruises—not to mention a bruised ego—to show for it. Here's hoping we both have smoother landings.
JOHN R. HAGER
Park City Merchants Association
Jeannette Bruce's account of the latest episode in her quest of the infrequently attempted can only be described as a masterpiece. Up, Up and Awry rates with her Himalayan Trek or Treat (June 7, 1971) as an SI classic. No author I have read captures and expands the struggle of the individual to accomplish the unusual, without the proverbial red tape (or 24 stitches), like that fledgling balloonist mountaineer, etc. Keep 'em coming, Jeannette. We of the lion hearts (and chicken livers) have to identify with someone.
Congratulations to Joe Jares for his superb article on the NCAA soccer finals (Nobody Kin Kick Like a Billiken, Jan. 8). His comments on the UCLA (individualistic) and St. Louis (team effort) soccer squads typify the glaring difference between foreign and American players. It seems only fitting that the national champ should be a truly all-American team.
RICHARD H. MUNSON
As a longtime subscriber and reader of SI, I had often wondered at your annual disregard for the impressive record compiled by the St. Louis University soccer team. Its dominance of collegiate soccer for almost 15 years must compare favorably with the UCLA basketball performance.
A year ago, when SI did give recognition to Howard University's victory in the NCAA championship, I felt that the slight to the Billikens was almost unforgivable. Thank you for finally honoring St. Louis and its soccer heritage. Please continue coverage of at least the championship in the future; it's a nice change of pace from football.
DAVID W. BANGE
La Crosse, Wis.
The headline on your story should have read Nobody Kin Kick Like a Billiken, Except a Southern Illinois University (at Edwardsville) Cougar. The Cougars, the soccer team to beat on the East side of the Gateway Arch, also won their NCAA title (College Division). SIU-E, coached by U.S. Olympic Soccer Coach Bob Guelker, also met the Bills at Busch Memorial Stadium before a crowd more than twice the size of the one that turned out for the NCAA finals in Miami. The St. Louis press gave the game to Southern Illinois, even though the referees disallowed two Cougar goals resulting in a 1-1 tie.
By winning the College Division championship, Bob Guelker became the only soccer coach who will ever win both the College and University division titles the first year either was held (he did it in 1959 when he was coach at St. Louis U.). It seems a shame that when two teams are so equal in ability, so geographically close (both using St. Louis area talent) and both win their NCAA championships, only one wins recognition from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
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