Caps off to Frank Deford for two superb pieces that captured the essence of baseball, A Time for All Us Children (March 27) and Spring Has Sprung (April 10). As with eating Cracker Jack, the more you read of Deford's baseball reflections, the more you want. Now, if I could only find the prize.
THOMAS M. FRON
Johnson City, N.Y.
I have never before written a letter to any editor, but your great articles on baseball and, especially, the humor in Frank Deford's April 10 piece on Opening Day conspired to change that. I laughed until I cried, and laughed again. Finally, quietly, I wiped away my tears. I am thankful that I have lived to see many of the wonderful characters and events that Deford described.
ROBERT M. SLATER
Green Valley, Ariz.
As a charter subscriber I guess I've written to you once every 10 years, and each of my letters has dealt with the game of baseball. This time it is in reference to Frank De-ford's story of Opening Day, specifically his footnote reference to Casey at the Bat and his question as to why "Jimmy Blake" of the third stanza became "Johnny" in the fourth. As I remember the poem—and it is one of two or three I have memorized—the lines in the fourth stanza are:
And when the dust had lifted, and they saw what had occurred,
There was Blakey safe at second, and Flynn a-huggin' third.
Blake's first name wasn't given.
San Gabriel, Calif.
•In his book The Annotated Casey at the Bat, Martin Gardner says, "Hundreds of versions of Casey have been printed, and seldom have two been exactly alike." However, he also gives the original of the ballad "exactly as it appeared" in the San Francisco Examiner of June 3, 1888. It was in that version that Blake was first identified as "Jimmy" and then as "Johnnie," the latter name, according to Gardner, being "a printer's mistake." Ernest L. Thayer, author of the poem, later issued a revised version in which Blake was identified as "Jimmy" in the fourth stanza. The reference to "Blakey" appears in what Gardner calls a "corrupted" version, which "introduced many changes...that persisted through most later printings."—ED.
The original shortstop on the Who's on First? team was not "I Don't Care." Because the routine was intended for burlesque houses where blue material was allowed, "I Don't Give a Damn" was the starting shortstop. Only when Abbott and Costello moved into family-oriented vaudeville, radio and movies was I Don't Give a Damn released (or allowed to play out his option) and replaced by "I Don't Give a Darn." Whenever this proved too strong, I Don't Give a Darn gave way to the rookie I Don't Care. Of course, I Don't Give a Damn went to Hollywood and enjoyed a memorable motion picture career teaming up with "Frankly, My Dear."
North Hollywood, Calif.
BEHIND THE PLATE
Congratulations and thanks to Melissa Ludtke for her fantastic feature on baseball's "men in blue" and their relationship with major league catchers (The Despot and the Diplomat, April 10). Once again SI has succeeded in bringing the fan closer to the game.
I realize that booing the umpire is as American as the game itself, but I hope Ludtke's story will help bring the ump the respect we all know he deserves.
PAUL R. POLITO JR.
After reading Melissa Ludtke's article, I'm sure that the former players and coaches who now stay close to the game by umpiring amateur baseball recognize that their problems are similar to those of the umpires in the big leagues. For baseball to remain both fun and competitive at all levels, instant replays, computers and other mechanical devices must never replace the men in blue.
Pueblo Baseball Umpires Association
THE RIGHT ANSWERS
Giving us incorrect answers to a baseball quiz (The Quiz, April 10)? That's outrageous. It's un-American!
Question 13. Pete Rose of the Reds is an excellent switch hitter and he hit 143 home runs through the 1977 season, but this does not rank him third, behind Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson, on the alltime list. Surely David Nemec has heard of Roy White, who belted 149 homers.
Question 16. Although Mike Marshall has both a Cy Young award (1974) and a career winning percentage of under .500, he is not alone. Remember Randy Jones, a Cy Young winner in 1976? As of this writing he is 63-66 (.488) lifetime.
I think Nemec should be sent to bed without his supper.
Iowa City, Iowa
The answer to Question 13 is Tom Tresh, with 153 homers.
•Correct, Tresh ranks third on the list of slugging switch hitters, ahead of White and Rose.—ED.
In your article on Rod Carew and George Foster (Masters in Our Midst, April 10) you stated that only three other National Leaguers—Hack Wilson, Willie Mays and Ralph Kiner—had hit 50 home runs in a season before Foster clouted 52 last year. Johnny Mize, playing first base for the New York Giants, hit 51 home runs in 1947, to tie Kiner for the league championship.
You are correct, however, in stating that only nine other men—besides Foster—have hit as many as 50 home runs in a season. Babe Ruth did it four times; Jimmy Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Kiner and Mays each did it twice; Hank Greenberg, Roger Maris, Wilson and Mize each did it once. Foster's first 50-home-run season was probably not his last.
ROGER T. JOHNSON
Shawnee Mission, Kans.
You have doomed the Orioles again (Scouting Reports, April 10), and again they shall fly.
The SI staff seems to lack respect for the Dodgers and to have a fondness for making outrageous claims, such as, "The remainder of the Cincinnati lineup...may march en masse into the Hall of Fame" and "With the addition of [Vida] Blue, the Giants have a pitching staff superior even to the Dodgers'."
Don't be ridiculous! The Dodgers are a very talented team and will undoubtedly do better than they did last year. And they definitely do not need luck to win, as they will prove in the 1978 World Series.
WHERE IS THE LACROSSE CAPITAL?
SI's knowledge of lacrosse has never been too awe-inspiring, but your article on the Hobart-Cornell game takes the cake (Cornell Stayed Down on the Farm, April 10). To trumpet Hobart-Cornell as "lacrosse's Super Bowl" is as absurd as claiming a Notre Dame-Lehigh football game to be anything more than a scrimmage. Johns Hopkins has beaten Hobart in preseason play, is unbeaten this season and has by far the toughest schedule in the country. Before you transfer lacrosse's capital up north, I suggest you wait until Hopkins and Cornell vie for the No. 1 ranking on April 15.
•Hopkins vied and lost badly. Rolling up a record 34th consecutive victory, Cornell beat the Blue Jays 16-11. In contrast, the Big Red's win three weeks ago over Hobart was a 13-11 nailbiter.—ED.
Thanks for the fine article on John Havlicek (It's the End of a Long, Long Run, April 10). You have paid tribute to one of the finest men ever to play any professional sport. It is most significant that the article does not mention Havlicek's salary. In this day of free agents and drifting loyalties, that omission speaks volumes.
Although John Havlicek gets my vote for Sportsman of the Quarter-Century, I am glad to see him retire. Living in Buffalo, I have thoroughly enjoyed hating the Celtics for the past eight years. However, Hondo has always spoiled things by taking the edge off that hate. I could never bring myself to call him any of the names I used for the other Celtics. Now that he is gone, I can go to Celtics-Braves games with a clear conscience.
GREGORY R. BLARR
I enjoyed your note about New Orleans Jazz broadcaster Rod Hundley (SCORECARD, April 10) until I got to the final sentence: "...although pro teams like the public to think their broadcasters are independent journalists, they often regard them as little more than shills."
You qualified your statement a little with the word "often," but you didn't qualify it enough. Several of my co-workers read it the same way I did—as a blanket condemnation of all pro basketball broadcasters as pawns of their teams. I strongly resent that.
I am responsible only to the station for which I work. I try very hard to be an independent journalist while also conveying the excitement that Washington Bullets basketball can sometimes produce. It is, quite honestly, a tough assignment. But objectivity is my prime goal; you can't fool viewers who are both watching the game and listening to your call.
Some NBA teams do consider their broadcasters no more than shills, but all sports broadcasts are required by FCC policy to include a disclaimer stating where the announcer gets his paycheck. I take great pride in the fact that the disclaimer in my case shows I am paid by my station. There are others in the NBA like me. Before you start lumping those broadcasters together with the shills, check the facts.
Sports Director, WTOP Radio
Voice of the Bullets
TWO TO WATCH
In your April 3 FACES IN THE CROWD you described Wade Blundell of Metairie, La. as a high-scoring forward on the Archbishop Rummel High School basketball team that won the state AAAA championship for the second straight time. It therefore came as a surprise to find Micah Blunt of the same city—but playing for a different high school—pictured as a member of the McDonald's All American team in an advertisement in the same issue. What were Blunt's statistics, and what brought him All American honors rather than Blundell?
•According to his coach, Blunt, a 6'9", 198-pound center and forward for Metairie's East Jefferson High School (also Class AAAA), averaged 20 points, six assists, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots this season, although he played only about half of each game. As for the All American team, members of McDonald's selection and advisory committees leaned heavily on coaches' answers to the question: "Name the finest senior you have played against this season." On that score, Blunt was the leading vote-getter in Louisiana, and one of the leading vote-getters in the country. Blundell, who received the second-highest number of votes among Louisiana players, was also strongly considered for McDonald's team, but he lost out to exceptionally stiff competition. Readers will soon be able to judge for themselves which of the two is the better player. Blunt has signed to play next season for Tulane and Blundell for Texas. Incidentally, five of the 20 McDonald's All Americans for 1978—Dwight Anderson, Devin Durrant, Greg Goorjian, Reggie Jackson and Cornelius Thompson—have appeared in SI's FACES IN THE CROWD.—ED.
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