Thank you for an excellent article (It's a Game of Pinches, June 30) by Ron Fimrite. It's about time that the base stealers in the American League West got some credit. Fimrite makes a good point in the story: "The six teams in the AL West have stolen nearly as many bases this season as the entire National League."
You failed to mention some of the great base runners in the division.
Last year the Texas Rangers stole 113 bases, and in Dave Nelson, Len Randle, Toby Harrah and Cesar Tovar, they have a pretty good group of runners. Nelson has more lifetime steals than Mickey Rivers of California or Reggie Jackson, Bill North and the assorted "designated runners" on Oakland's squad. Nelson was among the league leaders when he was injured.
Your article was interesting, but after I read it I had to check the newspaper to make sure Oakland was still ahead of California in the AL West. You made California sound like the best team that had ever played the game. Last week the Angels were in sixth place, 14 games out of first and eight games under .500.
I enjoyed the article about base stealing, but you give Billy Martin credit for a quote about the hitting abilities of the California Angels when in fact it was our Spaceman, Bill Lee of the Boston Red Sox, who said, "They could take batting practice in a hotel lobby and not break anything." Not being satisfied with his little joke, the Spaceman then proceeded to shut out the Angels.
•Spaceman did use the phrase, but two weeks or so after Martin coined it in Texas in early May.—ED.
Thanks to Ron Fimrite for recognizing a task that is becoming a necessity for every ball club. Base stealing is probably the most independent maneuver in baseball, which makes Lou Brock's single-season record of 118 stolen bases even more remarkable. Today speed is the name of the game, and to be able to "take" a base when everybody in the ball park knows you're going to is a tribute in itself.
Since a steal of second base, after a single, is, from the standpoint of total bases, equivalent to a double, we propose adding stolen bases to total bases, and using this new figure to calculate the ratio between total bases and official at bats.
The following example demonstrates the possible use of this innovation. As of June 19 Willie Horton of the Tigers, a power hitter with little speed as evidenced by his zero stolen bases, had 106 total bases in 232 official at bats for a slugging percentage of .457. In contrast, Mickey Rivers of the Angels, a master base stealer with 35 and possessing limited power, had 98 total bases in 261 official at bats for a slugging percentage of .375. A comparison of the two slugging percentages would seem to indicate Horton's greater value to the team; however, if one adds stolen bases to total bases, Horton's "slugging percentage" remains the same, while Rivers, with an adjusted total bases of 133, would have an even greater "slugging percentage" of .510.
You missed one point—the balk. There have been more balks called this year than I remember in all previous years together. It is not reasonable to believe that pitchers are performing differently. The fact is that in the past the umpires called only the most flagrant cases. This year they are following the letter of the rule. The pitchers are so jittery about the prospect of having a balk called that they are extra cautious, and as a result the runners get a better jump. Or maybe with a steal imminent, the pitcher gets so jittery on seeing a runner dancing around with a long lead that he gets momentarily confused and commits a balk.
Either way, the balk and base stealing are tied together, even if not directly.
Kudos are in order for Lee Gutkind's penetrating article on Art Williams ("I Want to Carry My Load," June 30).
How refreshing it is to see a man take pride in his work. Williams has undertaken one of the most demanding jobs in the world with the same vigor that has made his life a success.
Your article on Art Williams' umpiring career was extremely interesting and valuable. Last week I worked my first semipro game—a long way from the majors, of course, but an accomplishment that I, at the age of 19, am proud of. I could identify with Art's run-in with Foli and the Expo bunch. I think I can speak for umpires throughout the land who wish Williams luck.
California Umpires Association
Los Altos, Calif.
If I thought for a moment that Dan Jenkins had been derisive of the play in the U.S. Open, I would ask him to reconsider (It Was Madness at Medinah, June 30). I think I speak for some other golfers when I say that we pasture and hillside duffers draw energy, confidence and misguided hope from such performances. To watch the demigods gasp, sputter and gag, to see them scramble for bogeys, and double bogeys has inspired me to try again tomorrow to break 100. Allow us Mittys our limited victories, please.
It is unfortunate that Dan Jenkins had to spend most of the article looking for reasons for the high U.S. Open scores. Medinah No. 3 has always given the pros a hard time. I cannot believe he really expressed their true opinion when he said that many of them had participated in scads of Opens that were held on tougher courses. Where do you find three tougher finishing holes than Medinah's? It was on these three holes that the hopes of Nicklaus, Crenshaw and many others were shattered by bogeys and double bogeys. Give the course some credit. Look at the scores of past tournaments held on Medinah.
Finally, there is little reason to put down a Pat Fitzsimons for wearing wrinkled pants with a wallet in his hip pocket or a Peter Oosterhuis for looking silly in a cap.
I was appalled by Dan Jenkins' attitude in his article covering the U.S. Open. His belittling approach toward the victory of Lou Graham and the performance of much of the field seemed in bad taste. And as for his wish that this year's Open be remembered as "a relic of the past," I for one enjoy seeing a tournament that draws competitive scores. Lou Graham is to be congratulated for his victory over the best golfers in the world on a course that required a concentrated mental effort as well as physical ability to put together a winning score.
Prior to the Open many pros were quoted as saying that they would break par, but when Sunday evening came around, they had changed their tune and were now saying that maybe they had "underrated the course." Medinah, as Tom Watson knows, is much like the old Cleveland Browns defense—"it bends, but it does not break." Unlike most Open courses, Medinah was not tricked up for the event. At Winged Foot last year there were some par 5s changed to par 4s for the Open, but at Medinah the members play to the same par as the pros. In order to truly test a golf course it should be played as it normally is played.
HARRY G. KRAMER III
I would like to applaud Jeannette Bruce on the fabulous article entitled A Bird's-Eye View (June 30). Her generous coverage of an obscure sport-hobby was first rate, and as one who has participated I can say that she has acquired good insight into the technical aspects of pigeon racing. I also commend you for occasionally departing from standard sports and discovering other points of interest. You cannot imagine what a lift it gives to the followers of a different drummer to see their thing being given a piece of the limelight.
JAMES F. SMITH
The story about pigeons was for the birds.
You mentioned (FOR THE RECORD, June 30) that Bobby Clarke won the MVP for the second straight season. Being a Clarke adorer, I'm sorry to say that you were incorrect. He got cheated out of it last year when Phil Esposito won. He did, however, win it two seasons ago and plans on winning it next year to cap Philly's Bicentennial, which will also be celebrated with the third annual Flyers Victory Parade.
I would like to compliment you on your coverage of the AAU meet (High, Fast and Very Upsetting, June 30). Without a doubt one of the best track articles in your magazine in the last two years.
I want to make one small comment about Ron Livers' high jump of 7'3". Livers is only 5'9" himself. It is not just an esoteric record, it is the highest a man has ever jumped over his own head. The previous record was held by China's Ni Chin-chin when, standing 6'½", he jumped 7'6¼", for a differential of 17¾". Thus Livers has become the only man in history to high jump 1½' over his own head, no small feat when you think about it.
I have been associated with junior college athletics both as a player and coach for nine years, and I feel your focus on junior college athletics in the Taft, Calif. situation (Violent Return to a Troubled Past, June 23) is unfair.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED mostly ignores junior college athletics until a "sensational" story arises. We feel we have made tremendous contributions in intercollegiate athletics in serving the students and the major colleges to which they transfer. For example, how many times have you mentioned that Bob McAdoo attended a junior college and the name of that junior college? Are you aware that the National Junior College Athletic Association is first in recognizing and organizing women's athletics as an integral part of its organization? We believe we deserve more attention in your annual collegiate football and basketball issues than an article about just one school—Pensacola in basketball last year. In other words, give us some credit for the good we do as well as report on the injustices that may occur.
I sincerely hope you misquoted 15-year-old Bruce Perm in your article Going to School in a Sulky (June 23). "All horses are dumb and some are dumber than others" would rank in the top 10 for the most absurd statements ever made, much less printed.
GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Csonka, Kiick and Warfield have really left Miami. You see, I work for an express company, and today I picked up their football equipment for shipment to Memphis.
Some days it just doesn't pay to go to work.
KEITH D. SMITH JR.
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