The story on Billy Conn (The Boxer And The Blonde, June 17) by the gifted Frank Deford is the most beautifully written saga I have ever read in SI, and that includes the many hundreds of excellent articles I've devoured since issue No. 1.
NORB KEARNS SR.
Howard Beach, N.Y.
If SI has a regional edition for Paradise, I'd be willing to bet that there is a former sports scribe named Red Smith telling a lady named Maggie Conn what a wonderful piece he'd read on her son, Billy, and, shortly thereafter, explaining to an all-too-young young lady named Alex Deford what a splendid writer her father is.
Your magazine has spawned legions of noteworthy wordsmiths and thousands of memorable articles since its inception in the summer of '54, but I don't recall any single story having contained the wealth of nostalgia, journalistic style or out-and-out romance (read: love) that is contained in this one by Frank Deford. It is one of the best pieces of writing I have ever read. Bravo, Deford, and thank you.
C. RICHARD CLARK
New City, N.Y.
It seems that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and Frank Deford are establishing a wonderful tradition. Once a year Deford stops our world for an hour or two, and when we finish a piece like The Boxer And The Blonde or The Toughest Coach There Ever Was (April 30, 1984), there's a lump in our throat and a tear in our eye, and we are somehow a little bit better for having paused.
Great article on Billy Conn. Only an Irishman could write like that. I never knew Frank Deford was Irish.
(THE REV.) THOMAS J. GOGGIN
St. Ann Church
•He's not. Deford's paternal heritage is French Huguenot, his maternal (McAdams) is Scottish, "with some English antecedents on both sides." Frank says, "Since there are very few Huguenot stories around, I have to go into other people's ancestry."—ED.
Deford's story takes me back to my youth, to the night of June 18, 1941, when I sat by the radio drinking in every word and admiring the courage of Billy Conn in his fight with the great Joe Louis.
I hope that word will get to Conn that there are many, many of us out here who well remember him and that night. He certainly has a treasured spot in the sports pages of our minds.
JOHN A. KRONCKE
Berrien Springs, Mich.
I vividly recall that warm June 18, 1941 night. It was my 13th birthday and I sat hunched in front of the family's crackling old Lyric radio and listened ecstatically as the announcer informed boxing fans around the country that Conn was well ahead on points at the end of the 12th round and that surely Louis would have to knock out the hard-nosed Irish lad if he expected to hold on to his crown. Then came the unlucky 13th round and my ecstasy turned to agony as the Brown Bomber KO'd my cocky hero and ruined not only my birthday party but my whole summer vacation as well.
Time does not heal all wounds. Even today I wince and agonize whenever that particular segment of boxing history is recalled. I guess I always will.
BERNARD E. SHARPE
I was born on the evening of June 18, 1941. Most of America did indeed come to a halt that night. While my mother was in St. Andrew's Hospital in Murphysboro, Ill. awaiting my birth, my father and the doctor were sitting in the parking lot listening to the fight.
Finally, as my father told it, at about the seventh round a nurse came to the car and implored the doctor to tend to his duties. He told my father to keep listening. After the 13th-round knockout, my father went into the hospital to report to the doctor, who said, "It's a boy. Who won?" I'm glad he had his priorities straight at some point.
JAMES L. McDOWELL
Terre Haute, Ind.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the durability and the universal appeal of professional boxing better than two articles in your June 17 issue. After all, what other sport could in 1941 bring baseball "to a halt" (the Billy Conn-Joe Louis fight) and, 44 years later, bring to a pause a war in Northern Ireland (the Barry McGuigan-Eusebio Pedroza fight).
ROBERT J. COOK
I was fortunate to spend my first 21 years growing up in Pittsburgh. I "loafed" with the guys, drank many an "Imp and an Iron" and also had the chance to see the "Burgh" transform itself into a beautiful city. Deford's description of Billy Conn's life was just right, one of the purest pieces of sports journalism I've encountered in my 10 years of subscribing, and the way he described the Burgh from the 1930s to the present did a great service to all of us who are so proud to say we're from the Steel City.
My "fawther" used to tell me stories about this fighter named "Cawn." Deford's article made me realize Conn's greatness as a boxer and as a man.
PAUL S. STROYNE
Whaddayuns tink yer doin' makin' funadaway we talk? Djever tink dat mebbe da resta yuns goddit wrong? Ya makussound lika buncha illiderits or somtin.
The only part of the story I can't agree with is the labeling of the Conn-Louis fight as the most dramatic of all time. Sure, the fight was a classic in heavyweight annals, but it can't compare in excitement or quality with the first and third Ali-Frazier bouts.
Saddle River, N.J.
I am not inclined to praise writers for producing good articles; after all, that's their job. But when a writer gives us two beautifully written pieces in one issue, as Frank Deford did in The Boxer And The Blonde and The Day Chrissie Reclaimed Paris, praise is demanded.
Each piece is a classic to be filed away and enjoyed all over again when something said or read in the future brings it to memory. Thank you for some delightful reading.
GARY G. BAXEL
Pebble Beach, Calif.
Frank Deford's story on the French Open was a delight because of the nostalgia he evoked over the fierce but friendly Chris Evert Lloyd-Martina Navratilova rivalry. The respect, generosity and grace with which these two champions have always treated each other are a credit to them and their sport. Martina and Chris did us proud with that hug in Paris.
New York City
Chris Evert Lloyd has convinced me, a 19-year-old college student, that eveything is possible if you work hard and want it badly enough. Unfortunately, sometimes in this day and age it's hard for kids my age to believe in that. Thanks to Chris for putting things back into perspective. Now I realize why I am such a big fan of hers.
East Brunswick, N.J.
THE LAKERS' TITLE
Wow! What a championship series, and what a great article by Alexander Wolff (Finally, A Happy Laker Landing, June 17). I am a Laker fan, so I was quite excited when the Best of the West beat the Beast of the East. Who says Kareem is too old? He played with the verve of a rookie and the experience of a veteran. Kareem, the Magic Man, Worthy, Rambo Rambis and Byron (three-pointer) Scott really deserved the title, along with Cooper, Kupchak, Spriggs and McAdoo.
You Easterners can talk all you want about the Celtics and the Sixers, but as the Lakers clearly demonstrated for the third time in six years, you would only be talking about Nos. 2 and 3.
And how about an early nomination for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for 1985 Sportsman of the Year—finally.
MICHAEL G. HERMAN
FLORIDA A&M'S PRODUCTS
I was thrilled to read Craig Neff's story (In-Vince-able Man Of Steal, June 17) on Vincent Coleman, the St. Louis Cardinals' rookie phenom, mainly because just three springs ago he was playing baseball here in Tallahassee at Florida A&M.
Coleman joins two other Rattlers in the majors—Montreal's Andre Dawson and Kansas City's Hal McRae—both of whom are (or were, in the case of McRae) outfielders, like Coleman. Incidentally, all three of them took a little less than three full seasons to go from college ball to the majors.
FAMU's major league connection doesn't end there. The late William (Bill) Lucas, first black executive in the major leagues (with Atlanta), was a Florida A&M graduate and is credited with laying the groundwork in the Braves' minor league farm system for the development of the 1982 Braves club, which won the National League West title.
Florida A&M has a reputation as a football school, what with Bob Hayes, Henry Lawrence, Greg Coleman, Ken Riley, Hewritt Dixon, Glen Edwards and Hubert Ginn, among others of our alltime stars who went on to pro careers. But we're also proud that our baseball alumni have distinguished themselves as well.
ALVIN HOLLINS JR.
Men's Sports Information Director
Florida A&M University
Robert F. Jones's article The Sixth Great Lake (June 10) on Lake Champlain's history and folklore was very informative. I am a fishing nut and ecology conscious, and it gives me a lift to know that one of our beautiful lakes is not being spoiled by man's hand or by the evergrowing problem of acid rain. I hope mankind learns to be more careful.
ROBERT F. VITALE
It may be true that a picture is worth a thousand words, but hail to Robert F. Jones, whose beautifully detailed and descriptive words about Lake Champlain touched off a thousand pictures in my mind. Well done.
I have always been fascinated by the Loch Ness Monster mystery and was surprised to read that there was another such creature in Lake Champlain. Would you show us the picture of Champ taken by Sandra Mansi?
•Here it is.—ED.
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