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Original Issue


It was a pleasure to open your Jan. 14 issue (LEADING OFF) and see the aging but smiling faces of NBA immortals. Frank Deford's article No. 2 In The Rafters, No. 1 In Their Hearts describes the success of the single most influential person in sports, Red Auerbach. He has done more for team athletics than anyone else in American sports history, and, mind you, that comes from someone who is not a Bostonian.

Looking at the 27 men in the Celtics' reunion picture was like flipping through a Who's Who of Pro Basketball. A loyal Celtic fan could examine the strata of the Celtic dynasty with the cigar-smoking architect of the Celts' 15 world championships seated in the middle. That these diverse ex-professionals, some of them approaching Social Security age, rallied around their mentor for one more time and rained praise on him certainly was a beautiful tribute.

You are to be commended for your reportage on the Boston Celtics. I was especially gratified by William Taaffe's sidebar on longtime Celtics radio announcer Johnny Most. I have been an avid listener of his since 1953, and I will be the first to admit that his bias toward the Green has remained untarnished. My most memorable listening experience, however, occurred when Most lost some fans—my wife for one—the time he let his bias carry him a bit too far. Can you imagine anyone screaming into the mike, "And Chamberlain stuck his eye in Russell's elbow!" My wife said, "Enough is enough." The next day, we Most fans just howled in laughter as we told and retold that episode.
Lexington, Mass.

The Celtics' reunion photo displays perhaps Red Auerbach's greatest legacy to basketball. Not only was he the mastermind behind 15 world championships, but he also gave the NBA 10 head coaches (Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, John McCarthy, Don Nelson, Bill Russell, Satch Sanders, Bill Sharman, Paul Silas) as well as several NBA assistants and head coaches at the college level. All spread the Gospel According To Red.

Attending the Celtics Legends Game was like seeing the Hall of Fame incarnate. It was simply kelly-green ecstasy for Celtics fans of all ages. My 7½-year-old son Andrew said, "Hey, Dad! Bob Cousy is a totally awesome dribbler. Could he jam?"

I beg to differ with Frank Deford's statement, "But, truth be told, there has been no franchise like the Celtics in American sports...." If you want to talk about one single franchise dominating the American sports scene, I'd like to remind everyone of the record of the New York Yankees—33 American League pennants and 22 World Series victories. If that doesn't make them the dominant franchise in American sports, then I guess I'll just have to keep my NO. 1 Yankee hat on while I root for the No. 2 Celtics.
Jericho, Vt.

It was nice to read about the alltime great basketball writer, Jerry Tax (LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER, Jan. 14). With all due respect to your current writers, Tax was the best. I had wondered how he was. It's good to know that he's alive and well. Now I wish you would persuade him to write a cameo article for old times' sake.
Arlington, Va.

I read your SCORECARD item (Jan. 7) about the lawsuit the Chicago Cubs have filed asking the Illinois Circuit Court to block enforcement of city and state laws designed to prevent night games at Wrigley Field, and I agree with you that it would destroy a shrine to change Wrigley Field or have the Cubs move out of it. I have a very simple solution that would satisfy both the traditionalists and the money grubbers of baseball: temporary lights. The state could change the law to allow lights for such occasions as playoffs and the World Series, while the real fans could enjoy what baseball is all about during the rest of the season.

I love Wrigley Field and what it stands for, and I believe that its charm is one of the main reasons Cub fans have been the most loyal in baseball. They don't need artificial turf, domed stadiums, electronic scorecards, lights or even convenient parking. All they need is Wrigley Field and a team that will play its heart out for them.
Springfield, Ohio

I grew up in Chicago and have vivid memories of spending glorious afternoons watching Ron Santo run down the third-base line and click his heels after a win and Ken Holtzman, on leave from the Army, flipping vicious curveballs past the hitters. I remember Ernie Banks and Billy Williams and the ivy and the fresh green grass.

But most of all I remember sitting in Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego last fall and listening to Padre fans shout with delight, "Forty more years!" after the Cubs lost the pennant. Maybe you call the desire to win greed, but I'm tired of thinking and feeling that the Cubs must be losers. I'm tired of being reminded about the '69 Cubs and, now, the '84 Cubs. I'm tired of being a fan of the team that's the doormat for all the others in the league. I don't want to be around in the year 2024 to hear someone from San Diego or San Francisco yell out, "Eighty more years!" just so a few sentimentalists can have their day in the sun at Wrigley Field. If it has so much charm, then why hasn't it housed a World Series winner?

I don't think too many people care where the Cubs play, just so long as they keep on winning. If they were to get a new park, it would be fine with me. We can always "preserve that last shrine of baseball," good ol' Wrigley Field, so that sentimentalists can spend a leisurely afternoon in the bleacher seats watching reruns of the Cubs lose, and lose, and lose, and lose.
Studio City, Calif.

Thanks for that excellent article And So It Came To Pass...(Jan. 14). It's about time someone had the guts to say that a passing powerhouse like BYU deserves the No. 1 rating that it received. I had heard so much garbage about BYU's weak schedule that it was starting to make me sick. I was greatly relieved to read John Underwood's analysis; it was a breath of fresh air.
East Hartford, Conn.

I totally disagree with the selection of BYU as the best team in college football. Sure the Cougars were undefeated, but half the teams in the nation would have been, too, if they had played BYU's schedule. All the pick of BYU as No. 1 shows me is how badly college football needs a playoff system.
Haleyville, Ala.

John Underwood rightly extolls "30-95" as contributing to parity and, therefore, the fun of today's college game. However, he is on less solid ground in his apparent acceptance of the current pass-blocking holding rule, which he, again rightly, credits for the ascendancy of the passing game over the traditional running game.

Even Joe Paterno, who won his only national title under this rule, considers the current game "touch football" and "a joke." Those of us who grew up watching the likes of Red Grange, Chris Cagle, Barry Wood, Albie Booth, Frank Carideo, Jay Berwanger, Larry Kelley and Clint Frank long for the return of "The Foot Ball Code" as it appeared in Spalding's Official Intercollegiate Foot Ball Guide of 1938. The code read in part:

"Holding is prohibited by the rules because it does not belong in the game of foot ball. It is unfair play. It eliminates skill. The slowest man in the world could make a forty-yard run in every play if the rest of his teammates would hold their opponents long enough. The game is to advance the ball by strategy, skill and speed without holding your opponent.

"Perhaps a good game could be invented, the object of which would be to advance the ball as far as possible with the assistance of holding your opponents, but it would not be foot ball...."

The 1938 code contains other points that are pertinent to today's game.
New York City

Pat Putnam's piece on Donald Curry (Riding A Lonely Road To The Top, Jan. 14) was excellent. I have followed Curry's progress since he won the WBA welterweight title from Jun Sok Hwang in 1983, and I agree that he is a special athlete. Curry is the kind of fighter who could persuade our mothers to appreciate boxing. He makes a strong case for boxing as a sport, not an exercise in barbarism.
Maplewood, N.J.

•For more on Curry, see page 70.—ED.

Perish the thought that an official would serve as a friend of the court for the Boston Celtics. I find it interesting, though, that a striped shirt lined up with Celtic alumni when their reunion photograph was taken (LEADING OFF, Jan. 14). Was the official whose shirt sleeve can be seen at the left in the picture a former Celtic himself?

•No. The sleeve belonged to Ken Hudson (below, right, arguing with Red Auerbach & Co.), a former NBA referee (1968-69 to 1971-72) who co-officiated the Celtics' old-timers' game with Mike Lynch (far left). Lynch received an invitation to the NBA's 1982 tryout camp for officials but turned it down to pursue his career as a sportscaster for Boston's WCVB-TV. Both men are "friends of the Celtics" who work out with the team during preseason scrimmages and practices. Lynch also referees high school and college games. Hudson, vice-president for public relations and a director of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of New England, is perhaps better known as the founder of The Boston Shootout, a summer basketball tournament for high school players. At the oldtimers' game, Hudson says, John Havlicek and Sam Jones, who were playing against Auerbach's team, told him, "Whatever you do, don't let us win, or Red won't show up at his own party." And what did Red have to say? Hudson says Auerbach told him, "You take this seriously!" to which Hudson replied, "Red, if I take this seriously, I'm going to throw you out."—ED.



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