WHERE THERE'S SMOKE...
Your excellent article on Nolan Ryan in particular (The Bringer of the Big Heat, June 16) and fastballers in general reminded this ancient fan of a story that has been told about Lefty Grove:
Joe Kuhel of the old Washington Senators, after taking one of Grove's high, inside hard ones, was waved to first base by the umpire. Kuhel looked at him in astonishment.
"Look at your cap," the ump explained. "That last one turned the beak around."
How can Ron Fimrite compare Nolan Ryan to fireballers of old and completely overlook possibly the fastest of them all, Rex Barney of the Brooklyn Dodgers? Joe DiMaggio recently said on national TV that Barney was the fastest he ever went up against. Barney's speed was blinding.
How could you fail to mention Rube Waddell? Connie Mack called Waddell by far the fastest pitcher he ever saw. Waddell struck out more than 300 men a season in an era when most pitchers barely struck out 100. His 349 strikeouts in 1904 stood as the alltime high for 61 years. Waddell is the only pitcher who pitched before 1955 to be in the top 25 in strikeouts per nine innings (he is 11th on the alltime list).
•Some statisticians credit Waddell with only 343 strikeouts, in which case Bob Feller would have surpassed his record with 348 in 1946.—ED.
I believe that when you mentioned Walter Johnson and his strikeout record of 3,508, you should have included one other great strikeout pitcher, Bob Gibson. At the end of the 1974 season, he had a career total of 3,057 strikeouts, and he has struck out 40 more so far this year.
For Ron Fimrite even to imply that Nolan Ryan is faster than the Big Train is a gross insult to all us members of the Walter Johnson Fan Club, and we won't stand for it! We'll admit there were no accurate fastball-measuring devices in Walt's day, so the next-best method, we figure, is to go by the stories handed down over the years. It is no secret that since 1915, by using this system of measurement, Johnson's fastball has been increasing in speed by about 10 mph each year. In fact, one of our members, a mathematician, using what he calls an extrapolation technique, figures that by the year 2000 the ball will be smashing into the catcher's mitt just as old Wall is starting his windup. Eat your heart out, Nolan!
J. M. BURKE
Ron Fimrite asks if Nolan Ryan is faster than the old greats? The answer is yes. Ryan truly is the bringer of the biggest heat.
The story on Nolan Ryan was great, but that cover says it all.
MAKING ROOM FOR CHINA
Congratulations to John Underwood for his fine article on China (What's China's Track? June 16). After reading it, I see no reason why the Olympics should continue. Instead, there should be an annual open track and field championship in which any runner from any country can compete if he qualifies in his event. There should be similar open championships for competitors in the other Olympic sports. This would ultimately eliminate nationalism and politics, for which the modern Olympics seem to stand.
BY THE DOLLARS
Here is one for the Sports Salaries Are Crazy department: Pelé signs for $4.5 million (Curtain Call for a Legend, June 23), Muhammad Ali earns $5 million in one fight, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar asks to be traded despite a $2.5 million contract and Joe Namath rejects a $4 million offer. Despite all that, the two greatest backs in pro football history, Jim Brown and Gale Sayers, were never paid more than $80,000 a year, baseball's super pitcher, Nolan Ryan of the California Angels, makes a modest $125,000 a year, and pole vaulter Steve Smith has netted only $14,900 this year. Explanation, please.
NO DOUGH FOR DUFFERS
Your June 9 SCORECARD contained an article about a Las Vegas golf tournament for duffers (18 handicap and over) with a first prize of $50,000. It is absurd to think that a once-a-week golfer should be allowed to make this kind of money when some touring pros, who play and practice every day, don't earn that much in a year. As you said, Jack Nicklaus earned $10,000 less for winning the Masters.
Nicklaus and Johnny Miller recently turned down an offer to play a $1 million winner-take-all match because they didn't want to cheapen the sport. These men are a credit to the game. While some other sports are being turned into personal gold mines for a few big-name players, it is refreshing to know there are some athletes who think of their fellow competitors and not only of their wallets.
The touring pros have earned the right to play for big prize money. The Sunday golfers should be content to play the game for what it was originally intended—enjoyment.
ANOTHER MARK FOR PRE
A Final Drive to the Finish (June 9) by Kenny Moore is a fitting tribute to Steve Prefontaine, one of the outstanding U.S. long-distance runners.
This past January, Prefontaine, together with 21 other select long-distance runners, visited Dr. Kenneth Cooper's Aerobics Center in Dallas. The group underwent psychological, physiological and running tests. The most revealing experiment conducted during the three-day period was a maximal performance test. This was accomplished on a treadmill with each athlete, in turn, running a 5:30 mile with the grade of the treadmill raised two degrees every two minutes. The object of the experiment was to have the athlete perform to exhaustion. During the test, a record of the maximum value of oxygen assimilated by the body was obtained. Results revealed that Pre consumed 84.427 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute, which is the highest value recorded at the Aerobics Center.
This is just another record to be added to Pre's already bulging scrapbook.
NORMAN G. WAYNE
After reading articles on Billy Martin and Tim Foli, in your June 2 and June 9 issues, I wonder why you would even bother to give space in your excellent magazine to two such spoiled brats. Add the article in your May 19 issue on Dick Allen's return to Philadelphia (who cares?) and you give our youth an idea of what not to be like. Thank goodness you more than balance this out with articles on the likes of Henry Aaron, Steve Garvey and Johnny Bench, who paint a bright contrast. These are the people I hope tomorrow's major-leaguers will emulate.
CRAIG H. COLBORN
Oh, baby! Pat Jordan's article concerning the oh-so-cute Tim Foli was not very mature. The fact that he dated and married a Playboy Bunny and discusses with her the merits of posing in the altogether is quite a bore.
THOMAS D. CRAVEN
I appreciate your concern for unsung stars such as Tim Foli and would be delighted to see you continue in this vein and feature stories on such luminaries as Fred Stanley and Joe Lovitto.
ALAN J. MILLER
I have been a great admirer of Tim Foli since he first appeared with the Mets. It is time he got the recognition he deserves.
PEDAL PUSHERS (CONT.)
The article on Oregon bicycle paths (Where All Roads Lead to Roam, May 26) is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough. Our bicycle-path program does not exist just for recreation and exercise or only to provide "a way to see [the country] without parking problems." The program also provides for basic intercity and intracity transportation.
The significance of the bicycle-path legislation is that one state has made a tangible and public commitment to bicycles as a transportation alternative. An extremely important factor is that a state highway department is being redirected. By the way, if $2 million a year for bicycle paths is staggering, where does that put $200 million a year for highways?
A statewide network of bicycle paths has not been instantly created, but we have started. Let the record show that Oregon is serious about bicycles and bicycle paths.
DANIEL A. PANSHIN
In October I will complete 25 years as a motor-carrier public-relations director. In March I completed one year as a bicycling commuter—11 miles each day between home and the rail depot, a procedure I began when California gas lines were two hours long and one that I enjoy so much I'll stop only when I can pedal no longer.
Never once in more than 2,000 miles has a truck driver yelled at me (and only rarely have motorists; three young rowdies in a sports car are all that come immediately to mind). So, on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of clean-cut, upstanding family men who are the nation's truck drivers, I protest their grotesque depiction in the drawing that accompanied your article.
RAYMOND D. KERSHNER
San Jose, Calif.
I took particular offense at the description of my hometown, Grants Pass, Ore. (not Grass Pants, as Robert Cantwell preferred to call it). First of all, the only people who have the gall to refer to Grants Pass in such a way are from Medford, and they do so merely because of the rivalry that exists between the two towns during high school football season. Secondly, if Mr. Cantwell had taken the time, he would have found that there are many interesting sights to be encountered between the town of Wonder and the Oregon Caves, such as a ghost town, a museum filled with historical items, numerous streams, a lake (Selmac) and many parks. And since, according to Mr. Cantwell, 69% of the people who ride bicycles do so for recreation and exercise, this would seem to be an ideal place for such a venture.
THROUGH THE GLASS BRIGHTLY
Although as an old Bostonian I read with parochial pride how MIT's simon-pure athletes "beat their brains out" along the Charles (Beating Their Brains Out, May 26), I was sorry John Underwood said nothing about Tech's swimming pool. In the 1930s, when it was brand new, it was a three-day news story.
It seems that for years MIT had no pool of its own, only a beautiful design for one resulting from a prize competition in its architectural school. Somehow in those Depression years the money was raised and construction begun.
The building was scientifically sited and designed to take every advantage of solar heat, and for that reason its southwest wall was sheer glass, so as to admit as much afternoon light and warmth as a grudging New England sun might provide. But MIT's brainy architects had not realized what the effect would be when, in the late afternoon, artificial lights were turned on inside. The swimmers wore not even a fig leaf and when they climbed the tower to dive into the pool they exposed themselves—-I fear that is the only word—to scores of female secretaries and lab technicians in nearby buildings.
That was long ago, and I forget what MIT's solution to the problem was. Perhaps, being pragmatists, its governors simply decided that nobody had to watch the illuminated swimmers unless he or she wanted to.
•Shortly thereafter, MIT began issuing regulation swimsuits, a practice it still maintains.—ED.
As a member of the MIT soccer and baseball teams, I would like to present a point of view that you somehow managed to omit from your article. To begin with, MIT athletes are not mostly patsies. The place is known for its academic excellence, but the, egghead image does not fit. Most people are here not because of their brilliance (a truly rare quality) but because of their fiercely competitive nature and willingness to put in what it takes to do what they do. The concept of seeking mediocrity is an ungodly one. As Coach Francis O'Brien says, "Ya gotta love it." This attitude underlies MIT's success in sports.
Another upsetting statement in your article was: "Some of its teams do very well, and some merit the inattention." It is my opinion that guys like those on the lacrosse team, whose wins in the past three years can be counted on one hand, deserve the biggest round of applause for slicking it out. Believe me, playing in the absence of any spectators, save an occasional campus patrolman or misguided visitor, has some very serious psychological implications that your article failed to mention. Would any of today's sports notables have achieved their heights without someone to cheer them on when things were not just right?
Class of '78
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