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Original Issue


Once again you've accurately described the state of disrepair that professional hockey has fallen into (It Was a Sight for Gore Eyes, April 19). As a hockey purist and a television viewer of that Saturday night debacle between Minnesota and Chicago, I could only shake my head at the disgusting performance. I always look forward to the NHL playoffs for some fast-skating and hard-hitting but clean hockey, as in the Islanders-North Stars final series last year. But by allowing the kind of play I saw Saturday night, the league has proved that it can stoop lower than I ever imagined it could.

I applaud SI for its continuing effort to save the NHL from itself, but until league President John Ziegler is replaced, I'm afraid nothing will change.

I'm glad somebody noticed the insanity of the Chicago-Minnesota hockey series. Until you took the principals to task, it seemed that this debacle would pass without criticism. I guess we're all too accustomed to that type of hockey.

When are NHL executives—John Ziegler, in particular—going to stop being so two-faced? They promote hockey as the fastest sport on earth and then let slower-skating teams, loaded with no-talents, bring superior-skating teams down to their level by clutching, grabbing and hooking. Yes, I'm a North Star fan and undoubtedly biased, but in my view Chicago would have played virtually every minute of the series with Minnesota short-handed if the referees had been allowed to call the game by the real rules, not Ziegler's. And hockey would have been much the better for it if they had.

SI once again showed its love of hockey by attempting to pick it to pieces. The bottom line of any sport is winning. Why should a bigger and stronger Black Hawk team attempt to skate with a faster Minnesota team? The Black Hawks played physical hockey and won. It's the North Stars' fault for not being able to adjust to Chicago's style and beat the Black Hawks.

A perfect example comes to mind: Two years ago, while they were on their way to their first Cup, the Islanders faced the Big Bad Bruins in the quarterfinals. The Islanders were a skating team that had been known to choke when ferociously forechecked. Right from the start, the Bruins threw bodies and started brawls, but in the end the only thing they had to show for it was their own early elimination and their own battered bodies. Great teams make the necessary adjustments.

E.M. Swift—and SI—should first learn about hockey. Once this is done, then, maybe, you can criticize it.
Farmingdale, N.Y.

I read with interest Ron Fimrite's article It's Time to Overhaul the Grand Old Game (April 12). The most dire problem in baseball, however, is not, as Fimrite suggests, the imbalance of economic power, but the very existence of that power as an influence on the game. Baseball is complex, subtle and easy-paced. And therein lies its strength, not in the Players Association, not in greedy owners, and certainly not in an inevitable strike that prevented any semblance of a meaningful season in 1981.

Economic power, balanced or not, has no place in the game. Baseball fans were told time and again last year that baseball is a business. It is not! It is a sport. When owners expect to become wealthy at the expense of the ticket-buying baseball fan, then they cast a dark shadow on the future of the game. Likewise, if players expect enormous salaries for doing what kids have dreamed about doing for decades, then baseball as an American tradition will be a victim. Let's play ball, not economics.
Auburn, Ind.

After saying "It's time to overhaul the Grand Old Game," Ron Fimrite never does say what the repairmen have in mind.

Oakland's Haas family and some of the other new owners may have "vision," but what do they see? If all they want to do is encourage labor peace, great, but that hardly constitutes an overhaul of the game. My fear is that these owners have no respect for baseball or the fans, and that their vision includes a designated hitter for the National League, expanded playoffs and the World Series in neutral, warm-weather cities. I'll take the conservative faction led by the owners in St. Louis and Cincinnati, who prefer a game of skill and strategy in which the best teams are selected for postseason play on the basis of an entire season's performance.
New York City

Never have I appreciated my subscription to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED more than after reading William Nack's piece on Dodger First Baseman Steve Garvey (As Always, a Man of Principle, April 12). Kudos to the author and the subject.

It is a damning commentary on both sport and our society that an athlete of Garvey's caliber must undergo generally negative treatment in the media. It appears that the anti-hero syndrome has become pervasive. This glorifying of the inglorious and the berating of the worthy should be foreign to sport. Athletes were once encouraged to adopt the ideals that Garvey apparently has. Today vice seems to be more in vogue. Sadly, the title "hero" when applied to good men like Garvey has become trite—even notorious.

I'm fully confident Garvey has the ability to rebound from recent setbacks that were probably exacerbated by the media attention he received. My concern is for those envious teammates who so vocally yearn for similar attention. It will be interesting to see if they bear up under scrutiny as well as Garvey has. Perhaps then we'll be able to distinguish the heroes from the green-eyed monsters who wear Dodger blue.
Prince George, Va.

Steve Garvey is my kind of hero. He should be everybody's hero. Our society is in a serious state of moral decay when men such as John Belushi and John Lennon are idolized and a person like Garvey is ridiculed as being "too perfect."

After I read William Nack's article on Steve Garvey, I hated Garvey even more than I had before. I tend to agree with the comments of Ron Cey, Davey Lopes and Don Sutton. I think Garvey spends more time working on his image than on his playing skills. I also don't feel it's fair that the Dodgers got rid of all the players who didn't get along with Garvey when they could have gotten rid of him and not had any more problems. But if Garvey forgets his image and plays the kind of baseball he can play, he'll get my vote when I make my choice for first base on the 1982 National League All-Star team.
Amherst, Mass.

Steve Garvey certainly serves as an example to us all—albeit a negative one. Compare his lack of self-awareness and dimension to the wonderful humanity of Willie Stargell, for example, who has "had a banquet and is now on the dessert." Let's leave Garvey alone. His personal life is overexposed and ultimately none of our business, and his brand of baseball is boring.
Newtown Square, Pa.

Halfway through John Papanek's article on Craig Stadler (Sloppy Man in a Clean Game, April 19), I paused ceremoniously, loosened my belt and hoisted a beer in the direction of Stadler's home at Lake Tahoe. Before the Walrus won the Masters, I had always wondered what the coveted green jacket would look like on me. I need wonder no longer.
Oshkosh, Wis.

What a relief it is having an ordinary mortal win the Masters. One tires of continually craning one's neck toward Mount Olympus. Golfers like me, rumpled, shivering with apprehension, à la Craig Stadler on the 18th hole at Augusta, think the Stad is bad.
Columbus, Ohio

Although I'm now a graduate student at Rutgers, I feel eminently qualified to comment on Craig Stadler because I caddied for him from 1979 to 1982. For all the slurs and slights heaped upon him, Craig continues to have a pleasant attitude about golf and life. He's the first person to enjoy a "belly" laugh when his temper tantrums are bandied about.

On a more serious note, I feel very fortunate to have worked for Stadler for 2½ years and I'm pleased to know the man behind the mustache. He's one of the kindest, most considerate individuals I've ever met.
Somerset, N.J.

I enjoyed every spoonful of Steve Wulf's article Famous Flakes of America (April 5). It brought back memories of my growing up in Minneapolis, where eating your Wheaties was as much a morning ritual as washing your face and brushing your teeth.

I fondly recall the Wheaties Knothole Gang of the '30s, which Wulf didn't mention. Ten cents and a Wheaties boxtop were all you needed to be in the Saturday afternoon Knothole Gang that occupied seats far down the leftfield line at Nicollet Park in the days when Joe Hauser was hitting all those home runs. A noisier group of kids you've never heard. We not only cheered Hauser but also Andy Cohen, Spencer Harris, Walter Tauscher, Rosy Ryan, Buzz Arlett, Babe Ganzel and, in the late '30s, Ted Williams.

In the winter of 1949-50, having grown up a little, I worked at the Minneapolis Auditorium as the public address announcer for the Minneapolis Lakers. One night all of the nearly 10,000 seats were filled for General Mills Night. At halftime, I had the pleasure of introducing the Wheaties Quartet for what was probably its last live performance. There wasn't a dry eye in the crowd.

History, I hope, hasn't really forgotten their names, as your photo caption claimed. For the record, they were—from left to right in your picture—Bill Elliot, William Oppenrath, Ernest Johnson and Phillip C. Schmidt. In addition to singing the Wheaties jingle, this quartet had its own CBS radio network show in the '30s called The Gold Medal Fast Freight Program, in which these four men huffed and puffed and sang their way to national prominence.

About a year after that night at the Lakers' game, I was hired as a promotions executive working on the Wheaties brand at Knox Reeves. I remember one thing we did was mail to all the radio stations in America a Wheaties Welcomes Back Baseball package, which included a bottle of Coca-Cola, a bag of Fisher's salted-in-the-shell peanuts, a scorecard and a pencil. It was designed to get radio stations to promote Wheaties-sponsored programs, capitalizing on the brand's long association with baseball, and it produced marvelous results.

Premium offers, like the Jack Armstrong hike-o-meter, which Wulf mentioned, were still big in the early '50s. However, with Wheaties all but out of baseball by then and the heroics of Jack Armstrong virtually unknown to a new generation of postwar youngsters, the challenge for Knox Reeves was to develop a premium offer that could top the hike-o-meter and the fabulously successful Atomic Bomb ring that had worked so well for Cheerios and Kix, the other two cold cereal brands of General Mills.

The answer came in the form of miniature license plates replicating each state's, which could be obtained for a boxtop and a small amount of change. At first, Wheaties' loyalists scorned the idea as a last hurrah for a once-proud brand, but it took hold and became a mighty success. It showed that young Wheaties' eaters were still willing to be champions of a sort, munching through 48 boxes of the stuff to get a full set of license plates. Had General Mills waited a few years, it would have been 50.
Chairman and President
Robert Wold Company, Inc.
Los Angeles

Letters should include the name, address and home telephone number of the writer and be addressed to The Editor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.