FROM SWEATERS TO SHOES
I wouldn't be surprised if today's sneaker fees (Foot Soldiers of Fortune, Jan. 23) make Y.A. Tittle try to tear his hair. He played 20 years or so too soon. So did his colleagues who received $50 each to be in a Jantzen sweater ad that ran in the Aug. 15, 1955 issue of SI (above). After the shoot—Tom Kelley took the photograph in L.A.'s Wrigley Field the day before the Pro Bowl Game—each player was allowed to keep the sweater he wore. In some cases, that didn't mean much. Len Ford, Les Richter, Chuck Bednarik, Art Donovan and perhaps others couldn't get into theirs, so the garments were sliced up the back and secured either with elbows tight against the body or with wire hooks fashioned from coat hangers.
This was the beginning of the Jantzen International Sports Club, which lasted as such for about 15 years. The idea has since exploded to TV programs featuring vacationing pro athletes frolicking on the beach at Waikiki, beer commercials with Rodney Dangerfield (Rodney?) pitching softballs to ex-jocks and suitcases of cash being given to athletes for wearing tennis shoes. Things have certainly changed—a jeans company bought out Jantzen, and the $50 athletes wised up.
•For those readers who don't have a magnifying glass handy, the 1955 NFL All-Stars shown are, starting from the bottom row, and reading left to right: Richter (Rams), Kyle Rote (Giants), Doak Walker (Lions), Johnny Lattner (Steelers) and Bednarik (Eagles); Bob Boyd (Rams), Tittle (49ers), Ford (Browns), Bill Stits (Lions), Pete Pihos (Eagles) and Jerry Groom (Chicago Cardinals); Dante Lavelli (Browns), Eddie Price (Giants), Skeet Quinlan (Rams), Roger Zatkoff (Packers) and Adrian Burk (Eagles); and Leon McLaughlin (Rams), Ollie Matson (Chicago Cardinals), Donovan (Colts), Harlon Hill (Bears), Bruno Banducci (49ers) and Ed Sprinkle (Bears).—ED.
I have a six-year collection of Sis in my attic, and occasionally I wonder why I keep all those issues. After reading the article on Super Bowl XVIII (A Runaway for the Raiders, Jan. 30), I know.
The pictures gave me an angle on the game that television couldn't give, and the stories and quotes that I hadn't read elsewhere were interesting, as always.
Years from now I'll be able to look back at this issue and relive what for me was an excellent game, even if it was one-sided. Thanks for the memories.
Your outstanding Super Bowl photographs prompt me to vote Andy Hayt, Jacqueline Duvoisin, Walter Iooss Jr., Jerry Wachter, Heinz Kluetmeier, Richard Mackson, Tony Tomsic, Manny Millan and John Iacono co-MVPs (Most Valuable Photographers).
RALPH J. TURNER, M.D.
Hats off to Paul Zimmerman for his coverage of Super Bowl XVIII. It was old-fashioned football by the Raiders that defeated the Redskins. I hope NFL coaching staffs learned a lesson from the game. The wide-open football of the '80s doesn't make for the best competition. As far as I'm concerned, the Raiders' bump-and-run attack on defense was a thing of beauty, and that, along with a strong pass rush, made a mockery of the Redskins' aerial game.
Forget the air circus. Bring back Doomsday, the Purple People Eaters and the Steel Curtain. As Zimmerman has said, that's the way football was meant to be played.
Just about the time I decide SI has gone bananas—I refer to stories on the parrots of Chicago, sneakers and air-racing grandmothers—you restore my faith (and subscription!) with something like Ron Fimrite's classic on Tommy Lasorda (He Goes Where the In Crowd Goes, Jan. 30). Personally, I don't care for the Dodgers, but Lasorda is something special and Fimrite has captured him perfectly.
CHARLES E. MORELAND
Ron Fimrite's profile of Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda was "outstanding." As one who attended the Dodgers' adult baseball camp last October, I learned firsthand that Lasorda's love for people and for the game comes from the heart. It's not just for show.
At Dodgertown, he didn't merely make an appearance, he took four days from his busy schedule and spent them with a bunch of overgrown kids. He screamed and shouted on the field as if we were his future stars. He gave one camper a major league dressing down in the locker room for failing to put down a squeeze bunt. He stayed up till the wee hours telling stories and sharing "inside" information with us. He even took time to listen to our suggestions. Outstanding!
Speaking as someone who bleeds Cincinnati Red, I read Ron Fimrite's fine article on Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda with great curiosity. Lasorda's key to success has obviously been his love for the game and his love of life. His love for pasta probably doesn't hurt either. Continued good fortune, Tommy.
VINCENT D. MULLINS JR.
Davy, W. Va.
I found it fascinating to note that while the rest of the world apparently considers Tommy Lasorda a dynamic, All-American-Sweet-heart-of-a-Guy, his wife seems to indicate that life with Tom isn't all a bowl of Wheaties. Jo Lasorda says he hasn't any hobbies, isn't a handyman and is "spoiled rotten." She explains that his work is his life, but "If you can get used to being Number Two in a marriage, it's fine." This is Mr. Wonderful?
DANA HARWOOD MIHOK
Being an avid environmentalist I was thrilled to see your article on Tommy Lasorda. Just think, only a couple of weeks after reading about the parrots in Chicago we got to visit the jackass in Los Angeles.
SI seems to take off on the favorite expressions of featured subjects. First, Jim Valvano's "No question" and now Tommy Lasorda's "Outstanding." After suffering through a rather verbose article on the overbearing Lasorda, I thought SI might be interested in a favorite expression of mine: Blyecch!
FOOT SOLDIERS (CONT.)
The article by Jack McCallum with Armen Keteyian on "the Sneaker War" (Foot Soldiers of Fortune, Jan. 23) was an insightful and very funny piece of journalism. I think Puma executives got the last laugh, though. Marcus Allen, Super Bowl MVP, told millions during his postgame interview where his cleats came from. Now that's what I call a timely article, SI. Good job!
Your article examining the intense competition among athletic footwear manufacturers stated, "If Playboy suddenly started putting sneakers on its Playmates, the execs would look at the feet first." Please be assured that any Nike executives examining such footwear would undoubtedly be female. We haven't yet lost all sense of perspective.
Director of Public Relations
GRETZKY AND DIMAGGIO
While not truly a hockey fan, I very much enjoyed Jack Falla's article on Wayne Gretzky (Man with a Streak of Sheer Genius, Jan. 23). As a baseball fan thinking over the comparison of Gretzky's scoring streak with Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak, I came up with this: At Gretzky's career scoring rate, noted as 2.315 points per game, an equal performance in baseball, assuming one point equals one hit, would result in a 375-hit season! Are we witnessing the greatest athlete in history?
True, Wayne Gretzky's scoring streak is amazing. But to compare Gretzky's streak with Joe DiMaggio's 56-game gem is ludicrous—it's no contest. Gretzky kept his streak alive by scoring into an empty net in the closing seconds of a game against Chicago. Tell me, how many times did Joe D. come to bat in the bottom of the ninth with no one playing the outfield? Case closed!
I read with interest Herm Weiskopf's evaluation of which six cities are the most likely to get baseball expansion franchises (INSIDE PITCH, Dec. 19). Although Buffalo was not included on Weiskopf's list, perhaps it should have been.
Buffalo hopes to be in the major leagues by 1990. At the baseball winter meeting we introduced detailed plans for a 40,000-seat domed stadium. We also introduced a wealthy industrialist who wants to own the team, and a political and civic group united in support of a team.
The proposed stadium would be one of the final phases of a $1 billion construction boom in metropolitan Buffalo. The plans call for the stadium to be adjacent to a new Light Rail Rapid Transit system and within walking distance of one of the most exciting waterfront developments in the U.S.
WILLIAM A. HANBURY
Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce
Your INSIDE PITCH was wild. Indianapolis is far ahead of nearly all the cities listed in your projection of baseball expansion towns. The Hoosier Dome, expected to be completed by next fall, will compare favorably with other such facilities, and Indianapolis baseball has the support of both fans—as attendance for the Triple A Indians proves—and community leaders, who are pushing hard for an expansion team. I have no doubt that Indianapolis will be included in the next baseball expansion.
I'm sure you will be interested to learn of the recently formed Phoenix Metropolitan Sports Foundation (PMSF). Its goal is to attract 400 to 500 members dedicated to bringing more professional sports to our area and to supporting them once they are here.
Three PMSF members attended the baseball meetings in Nashville to present our city's case. The reaction of owners and league officials was very positive when they learned of a site-and-feasibility study, to be completed by late March, for a domed stadium and other recreational facilities. It appears reasonable that all or at least a portion of these plans will be realized by 1988.
GEORGE W. TAYLOR
Phoenix Metropolitan Sports Foundation
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