Frank Deford's piece on "El Chubbo" (Mrs. Billie Jean King! May 19) obviously required "no sweat." His facts are most definitely "where it's at," with no engaging in any "party pooping" for him. The article was an application of the "way-to-hustle" theory and certainly doesn't "tick me off." In fact, "dear hearts," it's really "tight city." If you have read the article, you will understand how there is "no way" the "vibes" about this lady could be more "right on." As Mr. Deford's reward for this "truly beautiful" sketch of Mrs. King, I will simply say that I'm convinced "I've just got to love it." Thanks.
Please include my name among the 85,712 "honeys" who have been suckled with a "poison pen." At first, Frank Deford makes a laudable case, propounding that Billie Jean King is "the most significant athlete of this century." But later he characterizes her as "the little woman" and "this broad."
Talk about conditioned reflexes! Even Pavlov's dogs would be howling.
You forgot to mention that Mrs. Billie Jean King also has the best of both worlds. Or does she have a Selective Service number, too?
SAMUEL A. NIGRO, M.D.
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Why, oh, why, does Australia (and a few other countries) produce exceedingly fine tennis players who are ladies and gentlemen, while we of the United States produce such distasteful champions as Billie Jean King and Jimmy Connors?
EDITH LANG BLAKE
The lofty place in the annals of sport assigned to Mrs. Billie Jean King by Frank Deford, although certain to spark controversy, is nevertheless legitimate. Any numerical ranking of significant athletes may be debatable, but the presence of Mrs. King in the top ranks cannot be questioned.
Since I first read about her more than 15 years ago, I have followed Billie Jean from her early court triumphs through her growing effect on tennis—indeed, on society. As is the case with most individuals who dominate the news, she reaps both plaudits and venom from the public and sportswriters. She is, perhaps, an eccentric, but in the very best sense. It is largely because of Billie Jean King that young females across the country are actively involved in sports as never before. For that, if for nothing else, she deserves unmitigated praise.
DEVON J. METZGER
Billie Jean King has done an immeasurable service (pardon the pun) for tennis, women's sports and people in general. The article and Mrs. King are right on, way out and truly beautiful.
I remember Billie Jean's passion to play artistically. A pudgy 14- or 15-year-old girl named Moffitt came to the Eastern Pennsylvania Championships at Haverford, Pa. Her partner in a mixed-doubles match was Donald Dell, a seasoned Davis Cup player. The match started badly for Billie Jean. Her complaints were long and loud, but this rudeness was directed at herself and nobody else. In about the third or fourth game it was her turn to serve, and suddenly things got a lot better. "It's about time," she shouted. With the score 30-love, she put her first serve in and followed it to the net. When a lob came back, she smashed the ball and it hit the chalk and bounced over the backstop—a brilliant shot.
At this point she clammed up and then stomped, lips compressed, back to the baseline. Aside from a gasp from the crowd there was a dead silence, until Dell, who had been left a mere spectator at the net, was heard to mutter, "Why don't you play better, Billie Jean?"
Bryn Mawr, Pa.
I must compliment Barbara La Fontaine on a beautiful and very pertinent article on the ever-increasing problem of too many people taking up the sport of rock climbing (Reasons Why—and Why Not, May 19). As an avid participant, I do a lot of backpacking in the Rockies. I have seen the damage done to the rock by pitons and bolts. They leave an indelible scar. Since there is an alternative—the nut and sling—why not use it? Where a piton can go a nut can almost always go, with a great deal less permanent damage.
North Platte, Neb.
Free climbing is a much more challenging and rewarding form. I was pleased to see some mention of this very demanding sport.
LEE D. UXLEY
Ron Rau's account of his meeting with a tundra wolf (Showdown on the Tundra, May 12) reads in part like the stories of wolf encounters that used to appear in Alaska Sportsman magazine in the '30s and '40s. The important difference is that Rau did not leave the animal in a pool of blood.
Whether Rau would have done so had he had a gun is another question, but I suspect he would have acted with the same presence of mind and a similar respect for life. Rau no doubt will never forget his encounter, any more than he is likely to forget the sight of that caribou antler shattering as it hit the ground. It is an experience any sportsman would envy: a moment of truth with a wild animal.
It is to be hoped, as this magnificent creature continues to fight for its life in Alaska against men who regard it only as a nuisance, that the wolf will have more encounters with men who know how to touch something wild without a gun.
Finn Rock, Ore.
What kind of claptrap was that Rau article about the "fierce" wolf on the Alaskan tundra? How about a follow-up piece on "Rhode Island's most dangerous animal: the killer cottontail"?
I'll bet there are more people maimed by faulty washing machines in Des Moines on an average Tuesday than are wounded by wolves on our entire planet in a given decade!
Please enlighten us as to the fate of Photographer Jerry Cooke after he snapped the picture for your May 12 cover on the Kentucky Derby. Certainly he must have been trampled to death, or worse.
GARY P. DOBBS
•Cooke was never as far out in the track as the photograph makes it appear. And when the picture was taken he was not even there. He had mounted his camera on a metal plate, painted black so as not to reflect light into the horses' eyes, and secured it under the rail. As the leaders came into view, he used a remote-control system to trigger the shutter.—ED.
Ron Fimrite's article on Bill King (Lucky Devil, He Found Heaven, May 12) was a good change-of-pace story. After finishing it, I had the feeling that King was being touted as one of the best radio sports broadcasters in the business. I do not dispute that point. However, I would love to hear a best-of-seven series of radio sports broadcasts between King and Joe Tait, the radio play-by-play announcer for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Radio listeners would be in for a classic confrontation. Tait makes foul shots and time-outs sound exciting, but when a 20-foot jump shot by a Cavalier wins a game with two seconds left on the clock, you will probably have to buy a new speaker for your radio. King must be good, but I wouldn't bet against Tait over seven games.
JAMES Q. ROEMER
I thought Ron Fimrite"s article on Bill King was fantastic. Since moving to the Bay Area, I have become an avid fan of its teams and have found that the excitement of the game is transmitted brilliantly by King to his listeners. Whether at home or at the games, my ear is always glued to the radio, listening to King's superb play-by-play.
Your article Playing Ketchup Out West (May 12) gave much-deserved recognition to baseball's team of the future. It is clear that the San Diego Padres are no longer "patties." Clobberin' Dave Winfield, 23, has established himself as one of the National League's most feared hitters; Sweet Swingin' Johnny Grubb, 26, has proved through consistency the ability to be a perennial .300 hitter; Sluggin' Mike Ivie, 22, is one of baseball's brightest and most exciting rookies; and Willie McCovey, 37, the Big Mac himself, is still one of the league's most feared home-run hitters.
If Dave Winfield is a superstar, who are the everyday, run-of-the-mill stars? By our count, 81% of major league baseball players are superstars. Not to be outdone by representatives of the ostensible national pastime, a whopping 92% of the NBA players would put themselves in the superstar category. What is particularly disturbing is that the vast majority of these seem to be rookies who have had but one good year.
This lack of humility supports our thesis that pro athletes are in a state of arrested adolescence.
Address editorial mail to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, TIME & LIFE Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.